Happy Friday! We’ve approached the finish line and now all that’s left is for us to cross it hand-in-hand. But before we break tape, we’ve got one more chance to discuss the sports stuff that you should know this morning.
The biggest item of the day yesterday was the Carson Wentz trade and how it’ll impact the NFL next year, but there was also plenty of chatter about the NBA All-Star Game starters — namely, how in the world did Damian Lillard not get named a starter? We’ll go over that stuff and more here in a second, so stay tuned.
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Hopefully you’ve got some nice weekend plans lined up over the next few days. You’ll be able to find me over here racing marbles and melting into the couch while watching “WandaVision” and “Judas and the Black Messiah.” If you want to chat about whatever goes on over the weekend, you can find me on Twitter.
???? What you need to know
1. The Carson Wentz trade may pay off for all parties involved ????
Another domino in the Great Quarterback Shuffle of 2021 has fallen. Yesterday the Eagles parted ways with Carson Wentz by trading him to the Colts — a deal that didn’t come as a huge shock but still will have some major implications on the NFL landscape.
- Colts get: Wentz
- Eagles get: 2021 third-round pick and a conditional 2022 second-round pick that could turn into a first (conditions: Wentz takes 75% of the offensive snaps in 2021, or Wentz takes 70% of the offensive snaps AND the Colts make the playoffs)
Those conditions aren’t all that crazy, so it’s very feasible that the Eagles get a first and a third in return, but can that be considered a win? Our Tyler Sullivan handed out grades for the trade yesterday:
- Eagles: B- — Yes, they might get into the first round in 2022, but this certainly isn’t the haul that Philly initially dreamed of, that’s for sure. That being said, they’ve cleared the way to Jalen Hurts being their starter while picking up some solid draft capital … it does sting that Philadelphia is now looking at a $33.8 million dead cap charge for Wentz in 2021 (the largest single dead cap hit in NFL history)
- Colts: B — Indy didn’t really blink in their budgeted price for Wentz even as Philly held out for more, and now they’ve got their starting quarterback to replace Philip Rivers. There is some risk here, though. Wentz stunk in 2020 and there’s no guarantee that he’ll regain the MVP-caliber form he showed not all that long ago. If he continues to struggle but takes most of the Colts’ snaps, they’ll have a bad (and expensive) QB locked up while also losing a first-round pick
This is probably the best-case scenario for Wentz, who gets to go to Indy and reunite with Frank Reich, who coached Wentz during the best period of his career. In his two years with Reich as the Eagles’ offensive coordinator (29 starts), Wentz went 18-11 as a starter and completed 61.5% of his passes for 7,078 yards, 49 touchdowns, and 21 interceptions. Our John Breech thinks it’s a “brilliant move” for Indianapolis.
It’s interesting to note that the Chicago Bears, who were reported to be close to acquiring Wentz earlier this offseason, apparently never actually made an offer for him. And if you’re a fantasyhead, you’re probably going to want to check out Heath Cummings’ analysis on the fantasy fallout of this deal.
2. NBA names All-Star Game starters ????
There’s been a lot of debate about whether the NBA should actually be holding an All-Star Game amid the pandemic this year, but it appears that the league is prepared to move forward with the game in Atlanta on March 7 despite some of the pushback from players, pundits and politicians.
We won’t know the full rosters until next week, but the NBA revealed the game’s starters yesterday. The starters are chosen via a combination of voting from fans, media and peers. Here are the 10 guys that were voted in as starters:
- Steph Curry, Warriors
- Luka Doncic, Mavericks
- LeBron James, Lakers (captain)
- Kawhi Leonard, Clippers
- Nikola Jokic, Nuggets
- Kyrie Irving, Nets
- Bradley Beal, Wizards
- Kevin Durant, Nets (captain)
- Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks
- Joel Embiid, 76ers
These conference designations don’t mean a whole lot because LeBron and KD (who were chosen as captains because they were leading vote-getters) will “draft” their teams in the style of a pick-up game.
Some additional details on what the All-Star Game experience will look like:
- For the first time in league history, the All-Star Game and skill events will be held on the same day
- The Skills Challenge and 3-Point Contest will take place pre-game, while the Dunk Contest will be held at halftime
- They’ll bring back the “Elam Ending” format that was introduced last year, and Kobe Bryant will once again be honored by having his jersey number — 24 — incorporated into the final target score
I do wonder if the entertainment factor might take a hit due to several players already voicing their lack of interest in participating this year, but at the very least it sounds like it’ll be a unique take on the event. I’m also curious to see how much restraint the players will show in terms of following COVID protocols while they’re in Atlanta. Usually, the party atmosphere is the selling point of the weekend, but that obviously won’t be the case with everything going on right now.
3. Is Fernando Tatis Jr. the best shortstop in baseball? ⚾
This week, Fernando Tatis Jr. became the richest shortstop in baseball. Now the question must be asked: At age 22, is he already the best shortstop in baseball?
That was the talking point for this week’s roundtable with our MLB staff. Five of our best baseball writers got together to discuss the league’s impressive talent pool at shortstop and whether Tatis is the best of the best. Here’s what they had to say:
- R.J. Anderson: Tatis Jr. — “because of his performance to date and his youth.”
- Matt Snyder: Tatis Jr. — “In 2020 … he lowered his strikeout rate, raised his walk rate, hit the ball harder, hit it hard more often and stole bases at a higher rate of success”
- Dayn Perry: Francisco Lindor — “I’ll say that Francisco Lindor benefits from it (change of scenery) this season with the Mets … has a career year at the plate while continuing to be a top-tier performer in the field.”
- Mike Axisa: Lindor — “Lindor has been an MVP-caliber producer since the day he stepped into the league and I think Tatis will be right there with him in 2021, but I’m fine with using the difference in track records as a tiebreaker.”
- Katherine Acquavella: Tatis Jr. — “I think he’s primed for another impressive campaign in 2021 … he quieted the concerns of his defense at short in 2020, and he looks like he’ll continue to grow into himself as a five-tool player.”
No matter who you pick, there’s no doubt that the league is spoiled with riches at the shortstop position right now. Tatis, Lindor, Trevor Story, Trea Turner, among some others? Come on, that’s pretty nuts.
When I was growing up, the shortstop position was stacked with the likes of Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra and Alex Rodriguez and I appreciated the hell out of those guys vying for bragging rights as the league’s best SS. It seems like we might be in a spot now where we could be seeing another stacked group battle one another on a year-to-year basis.
4. Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland may be the new faces of soccer ⚽
We’ve grown very comfortable will just assuming that Cristiano and Ronaldo and Lionel Messi — two of the greatest to ever play the game — are the faces of the sport. But might we be beginning a new era that features two other great players establishing their own personal rivalry? Our Jonathan Johnson thinks so, as he says Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland’s Champions League magic signals the succession of Messi and Ronaldo.
- Johnson: “Mbappe’s Camp Nou masterclass and Haaland’s complete display in Seville have come at exactly the same moment that traditional beacons of individual power are perhaps permanently on the wane and it is the strongest signal yet that a changing of the guard, of sorts, has taken place.”
It’s true that Ronaldo and Messi are seeing their star fade a little bit, but it’s also true that their respective teams have faded a bit as well — that’s not the case for those younger guys. As Johnson put it: “PSG are the new breed of European superpower and Dortmund the leaders of a growing trend of transfer-savvy clubs that are now enjoying success on the continental stage as complacent former behemoths Barca and Juve are facing up to the reality that their approaches are now outdated.”
Mbappe and Haaland may not have the name brand appeal and legacy as Ronaldo and Messi just yet, but they might be ready to sub in.
???? Odds & Ends
???? What to watch this weekend
???? Oilers vs. Flames, 9 p.m. | CGY -120 | TV: ESPN+
???? Heat vs. Lakers, 8:30 p.m. | TV: ABC
???? Nets vs. Clippers, 8 p.m. | TV: ESPN
???? The best thing I saw yesterday
The NHL shared photos of the rink that will be used for this weekend’s outdoor games in Lake Tahoe and the setting looks absolutely gorgeous.