Flyers Sign D Linus Hogberg to Entry-Level Deal

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(Photo: Kevin Durso/Sports Talk Philly)

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

The Flyers have certainly selected their share of Swedish prospects over the last few years and have done a good job locking them up within the organization. They added another one on Saturday.

The Flyers announced that they have signed defenseman Linus Hogberg to an entry-level deal. Hogberg was a 2016 fifth-round pick of the Flyers and the deadline to sign him to his entry-level deal was Monday, June 1.

Continue reading "Flyers Sign D Linus Hogberg to Entry-Level Deal" »


How Will The NBA Playoffs Look?

The NBA appears to be poised to return, and it could happen as early as July.

There have been a number of proposals for how NBA teams will return, ranging from how many teams would be returning to which stage of the season they would be returning to.  The consensus is that all of the games would take place in a single location, likely Orlando, FL (though rumors of Las Vegas continue to swirl). Teams would have a local training camp, followed by a short camp at the games’ location.

For the most part, your Philadelphia 76ers are going to be locked in to an early series against the Boston Celtics, but there would be some interesting roads for them to reach the NBA Finals depending on how the brackets are set up.

https://www.nbcsports.com/washington/wizards/how-mark-cubans-proposed-regular-season-and-expanded-playoff-format-nbas-return-could

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has proposed a format that allows all 30 teams the opportunity to play five more regular season games, which would allow most franchises to fulfill their regional sports networks’ requirement of 70 games to guarantee full payment for the season.

After these five games are complete, the top 10 teams in each conference would be seeded 1-10. The 9th and 10th place teams would play in a do-or-die one-game matchup for the privilege of playing the 8th seed in a five-game series for the chance to play the conference’s top team (Milwaukee or the LA Lakers.)

Upside – Every fanbase will have an opportunity to see their teams on television a few more times. Teams will be able to fulfill some financial obligations.

Downside – The playoff setup is a bit clunky and would have 14 teams sitting on the sidelines while six are playing meaningful games

Verdict – I give credit to Cuban for coming up with something. But this simply is not novel enough to be that interesting, and it is pretty clunky. Thumbs down.

How it would affect the 76ers – Other than providing a five-game warmup, it provides a chance to break their tie with the Pacers for 5th in the East (both teams are currently 39-26). It would also provide a long-shot chance to pass the Miami Heat for 4th place, not that home-court advantage is something that teams will need in this environment.

The next idea was reported by Brian Windhorst on ESPN’s “Get Up” on Monday morning, and would have the league come back after their camps and immediately commence the playoffs. In this report, the 16 teams in playoff positions as of March 12th would be the teams that qualified. This would eliminate teams that were coming on strong like the New Orleans Pelicans and Portland Trail Blazers and allow the Memphis Grizzlies to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2017. It would also put an end to the record-tying streak of 22 consecutive seasons in the playoffs for the San Antonio Spurs.

The wrinkle in this particular plan is that all of the teams in the playoffs would be seeded 1-16, rather than the traditional 1-8 from each conference. This would create a few cross-conference matchups, such as #8 Miami vs. #9 Oklahoma City and #2 LA Lakers vs. #15 Brooklyn (an intriguing possibility if injured stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant returned).

Upside – Could provide a glimpse into the future of the NBA playoffs, as this playoff format has been one that Adam Silver reportedly prefers as a long-term solution.

Downside – For traditionalists, the elimination of conferences at any point is a sore spot.

Verdict – It is an interesting thought, and one that has been bandied about in some journalist’s dreams. That said it is unlikely to pass through a majority of Eastern Conference owners, who want the guarantee that one of their teams would be in the Finals, come hell or high water.

How it affects the 76ers – Not a lot. They would be playing the Celtics in the 5-12 matchup. Their road to the semi-finals would require a matchup with the LA Clippers rather than the Toronto Raptors, but that feels like a wash.

Next we have a proposal that was included in a survey sent to NBA owners last week. In this idea, the top 20 teams in the league, regardless of conference, would be organized into four groups in a fashion similar to the FIFA World Cup. How those teams would be selected is up for some debate (could be the top 4 teams selecting their opponents, though it more likely would be random selection).

The 20 teams would be split into five tiers, with no two teams from any tier playing against each other in a group. In this scenario, the top four teams (Milwaukee, LA Lakers, Toronto and LA Clippers) would be the top team in each group. Then teams 5-8 (Boston, Denver, Utah and Miami) would be placed, followed by 9-12 (which would include the 76ers), 13-16 and finally 17-20.  Once the groups are organized, each team plays the other teams in their group twice, with the top two teams in each group advancing to the quarterfinals. Ties would be broken by the teams’ regular-season win %.

I ran 500 scenarios of groups being drawn, and the consensus led me to the following groups

Group 1 – LA Clippers, Denver, Houston, Orlando, Portland
Group 2 – Toronto, Utah, Indiana, Memphis, San Antonio (this will heretofore be known as the NBA TV group, because I can’t think of anyone who wants to see many games between these teams)
Group 3 – LA Lakers, Miami, Oklahoma City, Brooklyn, Sacramento
Group 4 – Milwaukee, Boston, Philadelphia, Dallas, New Orleans

These groups do include some of the same matchups we’d see in a 1-16 scenario (Boston-Philly, Toronto-Memphis, LA-Brooklyn, Miami-OKC), but for the most part there’s a lot more novelty here. Another plus here is that the average first-round since the NBA went to 7-game series for every round has been 44 games and would max out at 56– the group concept guarantees you 80. That would be a minimum of 24 more chances to gamble on games!

Upside – It is certainly novel. Allows more teams to participate in more games. Generates more upset potential (seeds 1-3 are 78-12 in first-round series since the most-recent format change in 2003).

Downside – Questions about how the draft lottery would work still linger. Traditionalists would again be up in arms, despite the opportunity for nearly twice as many games in the first round.  Arguably clunkier than the Cuban proposal, but since this is essentially how every major international soccer tournament in the world operates, it is less of a mystery.

Verdict – This is my favorite proposal. It thinks outside of the box. It is not likely to be done again, even if it is a rousing success this season, simply because a group stage where teams are not all playing in the same city would be unworkable.

How it affects the 76ers – As shown above, they would still have to go through the Bucks and Celtics to get to the Finals, though in this case it would happen at the same time. From a fan perspective – the opportunity to get two more games against Luka Doncic and the chance to see Zion Williamson would be phenomenal.

The last proposal is for the top 8 teams in each conference to begin their playoffs in the standard format. It is by far the most boring proposal, but it is also the one most likely to occur. Because if there is one thing that NBA owners enjoy, it is doing the same thing over, and over, and over again.

Upside – This is what we know. Familiarity breeds a feeling of safety, and safety is a feeling many crave at this point.

Downside – This is exactly what we know. No novelty whatsoever.

Verdict – As stated above, this is the most likely scenario. It is not as fun as the other options, but any basketball at this point is preferable to what we have experienced since March 12.

How it affects the 76ers – Their playoff road would begin against the Celtics, then the winner of Raptors/Nets and presumably on to the Bucks or possibly the Heat.

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Eagles Don't Need Another Running Back, Jalen Reagor's Versatility, & Andre Dillard's Tape

The Philadelphia Eagles are looking for another running back. Carlos Hyde is no longer available, Devonta Freeman turned down money from the Seahawks, and LeSean McCoy rumors are emerging. It's okay if the Birds don't get anyone and utilize some undrafted running backs.

Also, I dive into Jalen Reagor's versatility and compare what he can bring to the table to.... Nelson Agholor!

Tra Thomas recently broke down Andre Dillard's tape and it leaves me optimistic!

 

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Flyers Have Nothing to Lose in NHL’s 24-Team Playoff Format

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

When Gary Bettman announced the NHL’s return-to-play plan on Tuesday, there was certainly a lot to unpack. Details about the playoff structure, finalists for hub cities which will host the playoff games and draft lottery info were all revealed. There were still several questions that remained unanswered, like when the hub cities would be announced and ultimately when the playoffs would begin and how long each series would be.

One thing that was confirmed is the Flyers place in all of this. With the regular season officially over, they are locked in as the fourth seed in the Top 4 of the Eastern Conference, meaning they will not be subject to the qualifying round that teams seeded 5 through 12 will.

That alone is a victory for the Flyers. The last thing any team should want to do is go through training camp and have to come back and play very meaningful games with your season on the line in a best-of-five series. The Flyers will simply participate in a Round Robin tournament with the other three teams at the top of the Eastern Conference with no risk of losing their place among the final 16 teams left in the playoff picture.

But it gets better for the Flyers. As the fourth seed, they have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Continue reading "Flyers Have Nothing to Lose in NHL’s 24-Team Playoff Format" »


NHL's Return to Play Plan is Great, MLB Owners... Not so much!

Gary Bettman spoke to the media about the NHL's Return to Play Plan and I am very impressed with their idea. It's not the most perfect concept in the world as it is a little gimmicky at times, but ultimately, I think it will work!

It actually gives an advantage to the Philadelphia Flyers so hey, why complain? I also compare the NHL's idea to the disgusting proposal by the MLB owners. STOP BEATING AROUND THE BUSH!!!

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Would Buddy Hield put the Sixers over the top?

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

Buddy Hield has been a name tied to the Sixers for months now. It seems like with the way that it has been talked about that the move is inevitable. With that being said, it begs the question if adding a guy like Hield puts the Sixers in the mix to be a serious favorite to win an NBA championship. 

I would say that answer is yes. Hield would fit on the Sixers like a glove and is the perfect kind of guard to pair with Ben Simmons in the backcourt. Not to mention off the court fits that would make him a great addition to the Sixers. 

Before the season came to a screeching halt Hield was averaging 19.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 3.1 APG. On top of that he was second in the league in three-pointers made with 244, and was shooting 39.5% on 9.7 attempts a game. 

Hield is a perfect fit for the Sixers on those numbers alone. Lack of three-point shooting was the Achilles heel of the Sixers and Hield gives you that in bunches. This season Hield played in 64 games and hit at least five three-pointers in 23 of them. Including one game where he erupted for 11 makes from deep. 

Having a guy on the floor like Hield would benefit Ben Simmons greatly. As we know his reluctance to shoot the ball from deep has been a major storyline surrounding the Sixers. But having a shooter like Hield on the floor who shoots at the volume he does will help make Simmons’ weaker part of his game less apparent. 

He compliments the team’s other cornerstone as well. Floor spacing was nothing short of a mess this season which limited Joel Embiid’s game on the offensive side of the ball. Swapping out Al Horford and adding Buddy Hield would open the floor greatly for Embiid. It would also give Embiid a knockdown shooter to kick the ball out to when defenses collapse on him in the post. 

We saw the connection that Embiid and JJ Redick had during Redick’s tenure in Philadelphia. Hield could be the same kind of player for the Sixers but better. The dribble hand-off between Hield and Embiid could be lethal with Hield’s ability to attack the rim as well as shoot the lights out from deep.  

Character is another thing that would make Hield a great addition to the team. Before the season being suspended Hield had recently transitioned from being a starter for the Kings to become the sixth man. This is something that seems rather small, but it says a lot about the kind of guy Hield is. 

This move showed that he is willing to make sacrifices to help his team. Having a guy like that in the locker is always great. It shows that he is hungry and wants to win, but is also willing to make changes or sacrifices to get there. 

As Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are approaching their prime seasons the organization must put the proper pieces around them to maximize their potential. Hield checks a lot of boxes of the kind of player to pair with the All-Star duo. 

It is not going to be easy convincing a team to take on Al Horford and his remaining contract. But if Elton Brand can ship him to Sacramento in return for Hield it is certainly a move that would open the Sixers’ championship window even more. 

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NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman Outlines Tentative Return to Play Plan

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

Things have moved quickly since the NHL proposed a 24-team playoff structure and put it to a vote for the NHLPA just last week. The players voted to approve the system, and by Monday, a memo was sent for the protocol for moving to Phase 2 of a four-phase plan for return.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made a formal announcement on Tuesday afternoon to detail the rest of this four-phase plan and break down the playoff structure and draft lottery protocols as the NHL strives to make a return to play.

Bettman started by indicating that the most important factor in all of this is the safety and health of the players, coaches and all personnel involved with the game. Bettman added that the reason for putting together this plan is because both fans and players have expressed a desire to have the NHL return. Bettman added that all guidance in a return to play will come from civil and medical officials and that the NHL will not resume play until they are given the clearance to do so.

So now, to the details of the return to play plan.

Continue reading "NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman Outlines Tentative Return to Play Plan" »


Sixers can return to training facility as New Jersey lightens restrictions

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

It may never have been said before, but the Sixers are lucky that they opted to have their training facility in Camden New Jersey. Earlier today the governor of New Jersey lifted the ban on professional sports in the state. 

As of now teams are now allowed back in their training facility, which is big news for the Sixers. Now the team can get back to work as they get ready on a possible return to NBA action. 

This ban could now have come at a better time. The Sixers were one of the last few remaining teams to have their training facilities reopened, but that is now no longer an issue. 

Although nothing is set in stone, it seems that we are very close to a return plan for the NBA season. The Sixers are slightly behind the eight ball being one of the last teams to have their facility reopened, but now its time to get back to work to be ready to compete for an NBA championship when the return plan is confirmed. 

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82 Games? Here's How the Phillies Fared in 2019 After 82

As Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association begin to work towards an agreement to resume play, it appears likely that the baseball season will be somewhere around 82 games.  Just a tick over half of a major league season, the number of games might make for a very different outcome for teams like the Phillies.  We turn back the clock just under a year ago to consider what 82 games meant in 2019 and what they might mean in 2020.

The Standings at 82 Games in 2019

Game 82 took place for the Phillies on June 28.  Here is how the Phillies fared in the National League East after all teams played 82: 

NL East Division Table
Tm W L W-L% GB
ATL 48 34 .585 --
PHI 43 39 .524 5.0
WSN 41 41 .506 6.0
NYM 37 45 .446 11.0
MIA 32 50 .388 16.0
 
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/26/2020.

The Atlanta Braves had a sizable lead against the Phillies.  However, the Phillies were still ahead of the Washington Nationals, the eventual World Series Champion.  But would the Nationals have made the playoffs at all?  Would the Phillies?

Under the 2019 MLB Playoff arrangement, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves, and the Chicago Cubs would have been division winners.  The Phillies, the Milwaukee Brewers and the Colorado Rockies would have been the Wild Cards:

NL Overall Table
Tm W L W-L% GB
LAD 55 27 .671 --
ATL 48 34 .585 7.0
CHC 44 38 .537 11.0
COL 43 39 .524 12.0
PHI 43 39 .524 12.0
MIL 43 39 .524 12.0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/26/2020.

That means there would have been no playoffs for the Milwaukee Brewers and the Washington Nationals, the eventual World Series Champions.

Under some proposals, the playoffs could expand to 14 teams, with four Wild Card berths in both leagues.  That would mean that the San Diego Padres would be the fourth and final wild card at 42-40.  The Washington Nationals would have missed out at 41-41.

Advantages for the Phillies: Rotation Health

Phillies pitcher Jake Arrieta did not make it through the entire 2019 season.   On June 25,  Arrieta pitched for the last time.  At that point, he was still pitching every day.  Arrieta would have closed the regular season 7-6 with a 4.33 earned run average.  That might not have been stellar, but it would have been helpful for him.

Arrieta would make eight more starts for the Phillies, though there was a clear decline.  When pitching until at least the sixth inning, the Phillies had a much better chance to win.  However, Arrieta was not the same during the month of July and into August, when his season ended.

Rhys Hoskins Would Not Have Slumped Badly Yet

At the 82-game mark, first baseman Rhys Hoskins was batting .266.   At that point, Hoskins had 18 home runs and sported an OPS of .921.   Hoskins would hit .161 in August and .170 in September, contributing the Phillies fading out of the playoff race.  Hoskins batted .244 in July, where he would not have had as big of a falloff.

Jay Bruce in his Prime

When Jay Bruce joined the Phillies, he went on a home run tear.  Bruce played 19 games beyond the 82-game mark, and they were some of his most productive, before heading to the injured list after July 16th's game.  The Phillies would have ridden Bruce's hot bat into the playoffs.

Aaron Nola Was Becoming Dominant Again

It's easy to remember that Phillies ace Aaron Nola struggled out of the gate.  A devilish 6.66 earned run average for Nola was out of character.   But Nola would be strongest in July and August, in which he had a consistent 2.52 earned run average each month.  Nola's first July start was arguably his most dominant; he went eight innings against Atlanta, not surrendering a run.  Could that have been the first playoff game for the Phillies? 

Segura Awoke from a Slump

Much was made about how Phillies shortstop Jean Segura struggled after the injury to Andrew McCutchen.  Segura felt badly about it and at the same time lost a dynamic leadoff hitter in front of him.  But July was a different story for Segura.

Segura's most productive month was July, when he batted .346.   With the Phillies season reaching its 82nd game after June, this would have been the right time to get hot.

The Bullpen

The Phillies ended up piecing together a bullpen down the stretch, adding Mike Morin, Blake Parker and Jared Hughes.   The Phillies often had rookies Edgar Garcia and J.D. Hammer pitching in big moments.  But the Phillies had the emerging Jose Alvarez and Adam Morgan was still pitching well in the bullpen.  That said, there was little beyond Hector Neris.  It's hard to say that the Phillies were better-suited in the bullpen after 82, but it might have been a wash.

Summary: 

Had the season in 2019 ended at 82 games, the Phillies would have been a Wild Card winner.  With Aaron Nola pitching the Wild Card game, there's a real chance that the Phillies could have won a one-game playoff.  However, would the Phillies have stumbled down the stretch?  Were the struggles related to the aforementioned issues or was it the leadership?

The Phillies ultimately fired Gabe Kapler after 162 games. Would they have fired him if there were 82? It's fun to think about.

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