NBA Playoffs 2015 Picks–In WrestleMania Form

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo)

I was very pleased with myself for my NBA teams as WWE Superstars gimmicks, so I’ll use those comparisons in order to make my first round predictions. Below you’ll find the matchups as they are in the NBA’s bracket, but also how they’d appear on a WrestleMania match card with their assigned Superstars.

Let’s see how well I did in my comparing!

Eastern Conference

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NBA Playoffs Preview 2015: The 5 Most Important Defensive Aces This Postseason

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo)

When measuring players for regular season awards, and even big, fat offseason contracts, offensive production tends to take precedence. Points put the fannies in the seats, and the name of the game is to score more than your opponent.

BUT! defense matters in wins and losses. In the postseason, defense is paramount, and when coaches have only one opponent at a time to prepare for, having difference-makers on the defensive end can make scoring damn near impossible. This year, these five players will make the biggest difference on D.

Kawhi Leonard, F San Antonio Spurs 

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NBA Western Conference Playoffs Preview Using WWE Superstars

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo)

The NBA Playoffs are almost here, and WrestleMania just passed us by. So of course, I started connecting dots and assigning the teams set to play on past the regular season to WWE superstars. So without further ado, here’s the Western Conference contenders, and their WWE doppelgangers.

Golden State Warriors–Brock Lesnar 

This seems odd at first, considering Golden State’s biggest strengths are its two guards, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who are lights-out from 3-point range. That doesn’t jibe at first with the massive, hulking Lesnar, whom has become more and more dominant as his WWE career moves forward.  How could a team that relies so much on pretty, swishing 3-pointers, and beautiful motion offense, be compared to one of the most impressive bruisers in wrestling history?

It’s all in the results. Lesnar matches have become glorified squash matches, and it doesn’t even matter if he’s facing high-level opponents. We’ve seen Lesnar obliterate the golden boy of WWE John Cena more than once, and Cena used to be derided by smart marks as “Super Cena” because he never lost. At WrestleMania he tossed around Roman Reigns like a rag doll–before this, Reigns has been borderline invincible.

That’s how the Warriors dispose of opponents. They lead the NBA in point differential, knocking off opponents by 10.2 points. The Clippers are second at 6.5. These teams aren’t touching the Dubs, and it’s more than an incredible offense. The Warriors are also the highest-rated team in the league defensively. They do this while largely playing four shooters and only one big man, their defensive anchor Andrew Bogut.

Golden State is a rampaging freight train right now, having one of the most dominant regular season runs of all time. Lesnar has done the same in WWE. He’s the man to beat–regardless of whom the belt is on–and the Warriors are also the top dog.

Memphis Grizzlies–Rusev

The Grizzlies are somewhat limited yes, but they are also large and powerful. There’s not much flash to how the Grizzlies get the job done. It’s not pretty like the Warriors do it. They pound teams down low with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, particularly the latter. Randolph is an excellent comparison to Rusev. Neither man is the tallest guy, and both men are basically anchored to the ground, but it doesn’t stop them from being near the top of the game.

Rusev was undefeated before falling to John Cena at WrestleMania, and leading up to that he was leaving a path of destruction in his wake. Rusev doesn’t have any moves that are set up by playing to the crowd, and his promos are straightforward with little fluff or flair. While that makes him an epic baddie, it limits his upside.

Likewise, Memphis is a team nobody wants to face. They leave you with bruises and have lots of success, but can you really see them as champions? Memphis’ inability to shoot is likely to doom them at some point in the postseason, much like Rusev’s anti-American gimmick ultimately won’t let him win the WWE title.

San Antonio Spurs–Undertaker 

This was an easy conclusion to arrive at. They pick their spots to dominate, much like ‘Taker only wrestles at WrestleMania these days. It’s extremely rare for the Undertaker to lose, much like it’s a big accomplishment to top the Spurs. And they’re “old,” just like ‘Taker, except they can still get the job done at a high level. There’s always a chance they can win.

The Undertaker lost his first ever match at WrestleMania in 2013, and many thought that was the end. Likewise, when the Spurs won the title last season it felt like the final chapter in an incredible run for the Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili era. But then ‘Taker returned and defeated Bray Wyatt at this year’s Show of Shows. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the 2014-15 Spurs are surging, and looking like real threats.

Portland TrailBlazers–Daniel Bryan

The Blazers are more like Daniel Bryan than you might think. They’re overlooked, like Bryan was for so long by WWE management. They’re technically sound, while Bryan is one of WWE’s purest wrestlers. His size makes it hard for him to dominate against bigger opponents, while Portland’s defensive struggles make any game a tough time when their offense isn’t clicking.

But the main similarity is a little more sad. Injuries have derailed potentially exciting runs for both. Last WrestleMania ended with Bryan leading a YES! chant with WWE title in hand, but then he was sidelined with a serious neck injury that almost ended his career. Since his return, it hasn’t been the same. The fans are still behind him, but the storylines moved on. Roman Reigns is the guy now, despite the fans’ opposition, and Bryan has been relegated to the Intercontinental title picture for now.

Portland looked great this year, but a season-ending injury to Wesley Matthews ruined their title shot. He was a great 3-point shooter for them and their top perimeter defender. Now, they’re just a very good team that isn’t sniffing the title. Sounds like the Blazers right?

Los Angeles Clippers–Seth Rollins

Seth Rollins is the current WWE champion. He’s a mastermind, one of the cleverest in-ring guys in the WWE, and probably the company’s best heel. Correct me if I’m wrong, but are the Clippers not the NBA’s biggest heels?

Rollins is smaller than your average WWE champion, so he needs to rely on creativity and savvy often. That’s Chris Paul in a nutshell, kicking ass year after year despite usually being one of the smallest guys on the court.

Rollins also has superior athleticism too though. Nobody in the WWE these days has a better chance of making you say WOW! than Rollins. The same could be said for Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.

The Clips aren’t perfect–neither is Rollins–but Rollins is wearing the strap because he cleverly cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase at WrestleMania. The Clippers wouldn’t be the favorites to win it all, but don’t count out CP3 and his dunkin’ buddies.

Houston Rockets–Roman Reigns 

Roman Reigns is complicated, and so are the Rockets. He’s undoubtedly successful, but that doesn’t mean everyone wants to watch him. Reigns isn’t as polished as fan favorites like Daniel Bryan, and the Rockets, aside from James Harden, have some guys that aren’t always pretty.

Dwight Howard’s post game is super limited, and watching him consists of seeing him drive his shoulder into people and/or brick free throws. Likewise, for as dazzling as Harden can be, he leads the NBA in free throw attempts. It’s not always a great watch. Fans see Reigns in a similar way. Yeah his spear is dope, and the Superman punch has it’s moments, but he’s not 100% there as a superstar attraction. Sometimes you can see the flaws in him, or he’s just not compelling.

Whether fans like it or not though, Reigns is big-time and he’s not going anywhere. The same goes for Houston, who are sitting as a No. 6 seed right now, but are a game out of the No. 2 seed. Love them or hate them all you want, the Rockets are gonna be there, laughing it all off.

Dallas Mavericks–Kane

The Mavericks, like Kane, are serviceable veterans. Do they have a chance to win a title this year? No. Is it possible that they advance further than any of us expect? Sure. Kane used to be the s**t, when he was rocking the black and red mask, commanded fireworks to shoot out of the ring posts, and was generally destroying anyone and anything.

Dallas was like that a few years ago. Who could stop Dirk Nowitzki’s fallaway shots, score on Tyson Chandler, or keep the tiny J.J. Barea/Jason Terry tandem from killing you from beyond the arc?

Now though, Dirk is old and creaky. Chandler is still good, but not prime, and Rajon Rondo has disrupted an offense that was No. 1 in the NBA in the early part of the season. Likewise, Kane has gone “corportate,” taken off his mask, and put on decent, but unexciting matches for several years now while wearing regular ol’ black pants. He’s blah, and so are the 2014-15 Mavs.

Oklahoma City Thunder/New Orleans Pelicans–Dolph Ziggler

Originally this was intended to describe OKC, but not only are the Pelicans ahead of them for the final spot, Dolph Ziggler applies to both teams. Ziggler is always capable of stealing an entire show–so are Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis. Both of those players are ready RIGHT NOW to win title, and many believe Ziggler is too.

But circumstances outside these brilliant players’ control–for OKC it’s injuries, and for New Orleans it was faulty and expensive roster building–these teams aren’t going to win the title or even get out of Round 1. Westbrook may have a league-leading 11 triple-doubles, but he isn’t beating Golden State on his own. Neither is Davis, and he is damn close to being the best player in the whole league.

Ziggler may steal a show with the best move. He may be the most memorable Superstar on the night you took in a WWE show. But if he was thrown in the ring with Brock Lesnar I bet he walked away a loser.

 

NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs Preview Using WWE Superstars

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo)

The NBA Playoffs are almost here, and WrestleMania just passed us by. So of course, I started connecting dots and assigning the teams set to play on past the regular season to WWE superstars. So without further ado, here’s the Eastern Conference contenders, and their WWE doppelgangers.

Atlanta Hawks–Bray Wyatt 

The Hawks are the top seed in the East, and they are scary. They do everything right, but for some reason they aren’t really considered along with the cream of the crop, and when it comes down to it, if they lose, you’ll just shrug rather than react with shock.

So it is with Bray Wyatt, my favorite WWE bad guy. In the ring, he is compelling, and his promos are some of the best I’ve ever seen. Yet–something’s just a little off. When he faced the Undertaker this past WrestleMania, ‘Taker was coming off his first ever loss at the Show of Shows. This was set up for him to put Wyatt over, and hand him the torch as WWE’s resident scary man. The match was excellent, but at the end of the day Wyatt was defeated. He’s becoming more Mick Foley than Undertaker, and that might be Atlanta’s fate this postseason.

Cleveland Cavaliers–John Cena

The comparison is uncanny. John Cena sells the most lunchboxes and T-shirts of any WWE Superstar, and yet–he’s not beloved. Sound like “King” LeBron James, the man who will never be able to achieve the adulation that is still showered upon Michael Jordan years after his retirement?

While LeBron is the NBA’s Superman, much like Cena is WWE’s unfailing Marine, the Cavs have vulnerabilities. Note Cena’s current status–he is the United States champion, not the WWE champ. He was throttled by Lesnar the last time they fought, and Cena hasn’t really been in the title mix since.

Cleveland is surely in the title mix, but it has more to do with the weakness of the East. They wouldn’t be a No. 2 seed in the West that’s for sure, and when it comes down to it, their tendency to revert to hero-ball may cost them.

Toronto Raptors–Randy Orton 

Sure the Raptors are frisky, and they’re currently sitting in the No. 3 spot which means they wouldn’t see Atlanta until the Eastern Conference Finals, but you just get the feeling that they’re good enough to put up a fight before ultimately falling short.

That’s the current version of Randy Orton. Yes, the RKO is epic, as is a Kyle Lowry outburst or a DeMar DeRozan slam, but at WWE’s next pay-per-view Extreme Rules, do you really think Orton will take the belt off of Seth Rollins?

Me either.

Chicago Bulls–Ryback

The Bulls are bruisers, much like Memphis in the West. The thing is, the Bulls just do not have enough offense to run with the Cavs or Hawks, much like Ryback doesn’t have the ability to do enough things in the ring to elevate beyond also-ran status in the WWE title chase.

Derrick Rose can’t shoot well enough to carry an offense through four rounds of playoffs, Joakim Noah isn’t gifted enough offensively to go off, and while they’ll never embarrass themselves, they’re the big guy in the ladder match that just isn’t gonna win.

Washington Wizards–Dean Ambrose

Ambrose is a very talented Superstar who has been misused badly since the breakup of The Shield. In Washington, one of the best backcourts in the NBA hasn’t been able to stop the Wizards’ offense from sputtering though, thanks to an emphasis on long 2-pointers, and an old-school reliance on ground-bound, non-shooting big men.

Watching defenses spend all of their efforts trying to bottle up PG John Wall isn’t much different than watching Ambrose toil away in a six-way Intercontinental title feud that also includes R-Truth.

Being the NBA’s Dean Ambrose means you have a hell of a lot going for you, but somebody needs to step in and set you on the proper path.

Milwaukee Bucks–Kofi Kingston

This is a compliment I swear! Kingston has absolutely zero chance of becoming WWE champion, but he is one of the company’s most freakishly athletic and exciting Superstars. He’s not unlike the “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokuonmpo, who has been observed going from the 3-point line to the basket in two gallops.

Michael Carter-Williams is another long-armed freak for his position. Milwaukee is full of these guys, and they can give any team fits, but ultimately won’t win seven-game series.

Boston Celtics–Adrian Neville

The Celtics won’ sniff the second round of this year’s postseason, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t one of the more exciting upcoming NBA squads. They’ve got a young core led by Marcus Smart, an intelligent young coach, and a different way of doing things that makes them intriguing.

That’s Neville in a nutshell. He’s jacked, but Daniel Bryan-sized. In a WWE landscape that rewards hulking figures like Lesnar, Rusev, and Ryback, Neville is the “man gravity forgot” as a WWE announcer aptly nicknamed him. Watching him just once is enough to make you realize something special’s happening. That’s Boston–they’re one star away.

Brooklyn Nets–Sheamus

::facepalm::

The Nets are Sheamus because they’re pretty big, but not the biggest. They’re solid, but not real contenders by any stretch. And at the end of the day, they’re filler that nobody really wants to watch. Name one Sheamus match you’ve ever been PUMPED for. Exactly. It’s equally numbing to watch the corpse of Deron Williams.

 

MLB 2015 Preview: Division Winners, Wildcards & Awards

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo

Predicted AL East Standings

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

Predicted AL Central Standings

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

Predicted AL West Standings

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

AL Playoff Teams

  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. Detroit Tigers
  3. Oakland Athletics
  4. Seattle Mariners
  5. Cleveland Indians

MLB 2015 Divisional Preview: American League East

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo

The 2015 MLB season is near, so it’s time to start projecting how things will shake out. Let’s get right to it, here is the American League East preview. The teams will be listed in order of how I expect them to finish.

Boston Red Sox (71-91)

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MLB 2015 Divisional Preview: American League Central

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo

The 2015 MLB season is near, so it’s time to start projecting how things will shake out. Let’s get right to it, here is the American League Central preview. The teams will be listed in order of how I expect them to finish.

Detroit Tigers (90-72)

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MLB 2015 Divisional Preview: American League West

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo

The 2015 MLB season is near, so it’s time to start projecting how things will shake out. Let’s get right to it, here is the American League West preview. The teams will be listed in order of how I expect them to finish.

Oakland Athletics (88-74) 

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MLB 2015 Divisional Preview: National League West

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo

The 2015 MLB season is near, so it’s time to start projecting how things will shake out. Let’s get right to it, here is the National League West preview. The teams will be listed in order of how I expect them to finish.

Los Angeles Dodgers (94-68)

How is he not the most exciting player in baseball?

I don’t think this year’s Dodgers are quite as good as the squad that won 94 games last year, but it’s still a frightening opponent any day of the week. They have the best pitcher in the game in Clayton Kershaw, and a former Cy Young behind him in Zack Greinke. The rest of the rotation is solid as well, and that will be the strength of this club in 2015.

The lineup took a hit when it lost Matt Kemp within the division. He was a big bopper for them in 2014, and losing a player capable of hitting 30 home runs is tough to replace. The man taking his spot will be Joc Pederson, a big time outfield prospect who smacked 33 home runs and stole 30 bases at Triple-A last season. That’s a lot to expect from a rookie, but if he is great out of the gate he can lessen the sting of losing Kemp.

Brandon League rebounded from a gross 2013 to put together a nice campaign last season. He’ll be able to hold down the fort while L.A. waits for Kenley Jansen to heal up. Once back, the Dodgers bullpen shouldn’t have too many issues holding leads.

San Francisco Giants (88-74) 

The defending champs return their most important players from last year’s World Series team–ace left-hander Madison Bumgarner and catcher Buster Posey–but will be missing arguably their most popular player, “Kung-Fu Panda” Pablo Sandoval. Luckily for San Fran, Sandoval may not be as irreplaceable as he seems.

Well at least in the regular season.

The Panda hasn’t hit .300 since 2011, has never topped 16 home runs, and has a tendency to miss time although he did remain healthy last year. Casey McGehee isn’t going to make fans forget their portly third-sacker, but he can lessen the blow.

The Giants’ lineup is lacking in power, but it is competent from top to bottom in a division of teams with glaring strengths and weaknesses. Behind Bumgarner in the rotation is a deep crew of veterans. Matt Cain will be the most important of these veterans; He’s posted a 4.00 or higher ERA in each of the past two seasons, but has a history of being a workhorse with excellent control. If he can regain it, then the Giants will push L.A. for the NL West crown.

San Diego Padres (77-85) 

The Pads remade the roster this offseason, and at the plate they should be miles better than they were last year, when they ranked dead last in runs per game. Adding powerful hitters like Matt Kemp and Justin Upton will make them far more potent, and those are two hitters that shouldn’t fear PETCO Park’s caverns too much.

Adding James Shields was a huge move too, making this rotation competitive with any in baseball.

So why third? Defense. Upton is not a good defensive outfielder, and Kemp was shockingly bad last year in L.A. In fact, he was so bad they had to remove him from center field, which created tension and added motivation to move him and clear room for Pederson. Alexi Amarista is the only projected everyday starter that was a plus defensively last season, and when you play in a ballpark that suppresses offense, being able to prevent runs becomes very important. San Diego won’t be near the top in that sense, and that puts pressure on Wil Myers to really live up to his potential right now. 

Colorado Rockies (66-96)

Great with the bat AND the glove

The reason the Rockies are ranked this low are health and pitching. Offensively, this team could lead MLB offensively if the lineup stayed healthy. SS Troy Tulowitzki never does though, and neither does OF Carlos Gonzalez. Together they may form arguably the NL’s scariest one-two punch, but extended, frequent DL stays ruin things. Surrounding those two pillars are exciting players like 3B Nolan Arenado and OFs Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon. If these guys stay out of the trainer’s room WATCH OUT!

Then you look at Colorado’s pitching though, and Jorge De La Rosa is the No. 1, and Latroy Hawkins is still closing. It’s hard enough to pitch at Coors Field as is, but when the club enters the season with subpar talent from the outset, they’re handcuffing themselves.

Arizona Diamondbacks (64-98)

There’s some cool stuff going on here, but for the most part this team has the look of a non-factor. Paul Goldschmidt is a kraken in this lineup, but he’s surrounded by unproven talent like A.J. Pollock and Yasmany Tomas, or flawed hitters like Mark Trumbo (peep his OBP for the past two seasons).

The starting rotation looks bleak, even if Jeremy Hellickson develops into something resembling a No. 1. Addison Reed has great stuff, but he was too hittable at times last season; Brad Ziegler is there to take over the job if Reed stumbles, but he’s no great shakes himself. Overall, the D-Backs have nothing to hang their hats on, and that’s why they will struggle.

 

 

MLB 2015 Divisional Preview: National League Central

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo

The 2015 MLB season is near, so it’s time to start projecting how things will shake out. Let’s get right to it, here is the National League Central preview. The teams will be listed in order of how I expect them to finish.

St. Louis Cardinals (90-72)

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