My Thoughts After UFC 260

We are now living in a new era in the UFC Heavyweight division. The Francis Ngannou era. The era of the Predator.

What we saw on Saturday was a drastically new and improved Francis Ngannou. One who learned from his mistakes in the first fight and made major changes to his game plan to get the job done. Those mistakes were well-known to any serious UFC fan. He was too anxious and rushed him, he couldn’t defend the takedowns, etc. Francis adjusted fantastically to make sure none of those things were problems the second time around. After Francis stuffed the first takedown and even transitioned into his offensive wrestling game, it was immediately clear that everyone was in for something special. 

Now let’s not take away any credit from his opponent. Stipe Miocic is the greatest UFC Heavyweight champion to ever be apart of this organization. He deserves a trilogy with Francis Ngannou even after getting knocked out and making the mental mistake to put himself in a position to get knocked out after he chose to rush him after getting stunned. Conor McGregor will likely get his in July against Dustin Poirier. However, the situation gets much more complicated when you factor in Jon Jones and Derrick Lewis.

Ngannou fighting Jon Jones is the biggest fight the UFC can make at this very moment. Jon Jones hasn’t fought since February 2020 and has since vacated his belt to move up a weight class. And since that fight, Jones has been very adamant that he wants his money. Whether Dana chooses to cater to his request is unknown, but that can only delay the works of his fight since the UFC failed to get this done before 260 when they had already said that Jones will face the winner. And with Miocic already announcing he would like to spend time with his family before making a return, it may very likely be Derrick Lewis fighting in the first title defense for Ngannou.

Lewis is coming off of a brutal knockout win against Curtis Blaydes back in February that asserted himself into the title picture. But with Jon Jones assumed to be the first challenger after the winner of 260, Lewis was put into a bad spot of “what’s next?” Well with this Jones drama and neither Lewis nor Ngannou wanting to wait, the UFC might as well move forward with Jones until they can resolve their issues. 

Breaking down the rest of the card, it is unfortunate that we likely saw the last of former UFC Welterweight champion, Tyron Woodley, after losing his fourth straight fight to Vincente Luque. Luque is now a top Welterweight contender and should fight either Stephen Thompson or Michael Chiesa. Both of those matchups would be perfect for all parties involved. Suga Sean O’Malley made his return after a seven-month layoff in dramatic fashion. He laid an absolutely devastating right hand against Thomas Almedia, who had his back on the canvas. Almeida may be on the chopping block after also losing his fourth straight fight. Maybe Mark Smith should have ended the fight before allowing O’Malley to land that punch? That’s just me. Nonetheless, a fight between O’Malley and Dominick Cruz would be incredible and both parties seem very interested in making that happening. Possibly as the co-main for Poirier vs. McGregor III?

Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Preseason

The key to winning your fantasy baseball league is not how well you draft, but the players you add off waivers. This is extremely important because securing hidden talent and call-ups could replace those late-round selections that aren’t having the best season. Here at NFS, we provide the best picks for players you should grab off waivers now before it is too late. As always, both opportunity and performance are taken into consideration for these players, and also all players listed are rostered below 40 percent on ESPN. Learn to think like a NERD! 

Hitters

Nate Lowe, 1B, Texas Rangers
After failing to separate himself from an extremely stacked Tampa Bay Rays young core, Nate Lowe was shipped off to the Texas Rangers for three minor leaguers. In Texas, he is expected to be the everyday first baseman for the crew. His hitting numbers have still yet to reach the league average, hitting for a poor .224 average in 2020. However, now with a franchise not actively competing to win the division, Lowe should have every opportunity to make improvements and become a key young player for the slowly rising Texas Rangers. 

Nick Senzel, OF, Cincinnati Reds
After being a former top prospect, Nick Senzel had a horrendous 2020 season that was highlighted by his poor .186 batting average. But only being 25 years old, Senzel has plenty of room to grow now that he is expected to be the everyday center fielder for the Cincinnati Reds. His production this season will be extremely important for whether Cincinnati can make a push for the postseason or having another lost season. 

Manuel Margot, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
After posting some strong outings in the playoffs against the Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Dodgers. Manuel Margot has boosted himself to becoming an everyday player in the Rays lineup. His postseason also included three home runs in the series against the Houston Astros. Still, at 26 years old, Margot has great upside and could even force a Kevin Kiermaier trade if his 2021 season is off to a great start. He will be a key contributor to help the Rays get back to the postseason. 

Jeimer Candelario, 1B/3B, Detroit Tigers
Jeimer Candelario had a breakout year in last year’s shortened season and is now expected to be batting second in Detroit. He had a career year in batting average and achieved a .503 slugging percentage. His spring training numbers have been great, batting .336 in 17 games. He will be a primary player as Detroit continues to build a roster that can compete for postseason hopes, something they haven’t seen since 2014. 

Pitchers

Nate Pearson, SP, Toronto Blue Jays
Nate Pearson was a former top prospect last year for the Toronto Blue Jays and had a great debut, which included a two-hit gem against the Washington Nationals. However, he dealt with injury and his numbers tanked to a six ERA to the point where he was pitching out of relief toward the end of the season. His second season should be much better with time off. But it is worth noting he has dealt with spring training injuries and has only appeared in one game. 

Elieser Hernandez, SP, Miami Marlins
Elieser Hernandez played a key role in the Marlins’ push for the playoffs and will attempt to ride that momentum into this season. He achieved a 3.16 ERA and a 1.013 WHIP. Hernandez is also only 25 years old and that could be key for an improving season. While Miami plays in one of the hardest divisions in the entire MLB, his backend rotation impact will be important for another playoff appearance. 

Griffin Canning, SP, Los Angeles Angels
Griffin Canning has held the backend rotation for the Angels pretty decently for only being 25 years old and entering his third season. He cracked just below a four ERA in the shortened season last year. His spring training numbers have struggled, where he’s averaged a seven ERA and a 1.816 WHIP. However, his regular-season upside still makes him worthy enough on the waiver wire radar. 

Michael Kopech, SP, Chicago White Sox
Michael Kopech hasn’t played in a major league game since 2018 after Tommy John Surgery and opting out of the 2020 season. But he is still a top prospect for the rising Chicago White Sox and has the opportunity to be a huge x-factor. His 2018 numbers were below average for a top prospect with a 5.02 ERA. However, at 24 years old, he still has time to make improvements and show that the Tommy John Surgery is behind him.

Fantasy Basketball Waiver Wire: Best Pickups

The key to winning your fantasy basketball league is not how well you draft, but the players you add off waivers. This is extremely important because securing hidden talent could replace those late-round selections that aren’t having the best season. Here at NFS, we provide the best picks for players you should grab off waivers now before it is too late. As always, both opportunity and performance are taken into consideration for these players, and also all players listed are rostered below 40 percent on ESPN. Learn to think like a NERD! Check out the NBA New Age Rankings for every player’s year to date performance valuation.

Guards

Darius Garland, PG/SG, Cleveland Cavaliers
After a rough rookie season, many questioned what kind of impact Darius Garland would have after being a top-five selection less than two years ago. However, Garland has made some solid improvements to his game to put himself back on track to be a solid prospect for the Cavaliers. While Cleveland has seemed to fall off the playoff trail, Garland has still done a good job at consistent production, even after a hand injury that kept him out multiple weeks. In the first half of this season, Garland has averaged 16 points, two rebounds, six assists, and 1.2 steals per game. Garland still has a solid output for the rest of the season as a young prospect with little competition in Cleveland. He is expected to be the starting point guard for the rest of this season and beyond. 

Kendrick Nunn, SG, Miami Heat
COVID-19 issues gave Nunn a tough start to the season, but around mid-January, Nunn finally started to get his season on a roll. This start made him a solid fantasy pickup around the end of January. Since then he has been a consistent scorer for a Miami team that is trying to regather themselves after a slow start. In the first half of the season, Nunn has averaged 14.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. His biggest improvement has been his shooting percentages. Both from the field and three he has seen small increases compared to his rookie season. Nunn will have a key role for the Heat that will try to separate themselves from the rest of the pack and guarantee themselves a playoff spot. 

Norman Powell, SG/SF, Toronto Raptors
Similar to the Miami Heat, the Toronto Raptors have had a slow start after being forced to play all of their home games in Florida and the lack of a real big man. Nonetheless, Norman Powell has been one of the few players on the team who has elevated his game to keep this team still in the playoff hunt. In the first half of the season, Powell has averaged 18 points, three rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game. He has also significantly improved his three-point shooting, jumping from 39 percent to 43 percent. Powell’s production in the second half of the season will be key if Toronto wants to punch their ticket to the postseason again this year. 

Forwards

Kyle Anderson, SF/PF, Memphis Grizzlies
With Jaren Jackson Jr. not playing at all in the first half of the season, it has been Kyle Anderson who has had the breakout season for the Memphis Grizzlies. Slo Mo this season has averaged 13.4 points, six rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. While the points has been the biggest jump this season, his three-point percentage increase has been astronomical. Last year, Anderson shot 28 percent. That percentage this season has jumped to 38 percent. His free-throw percentage has also jumped 10 percent as well. Anderson’s role will be interesting once JJJ will return after surgery. But, with JJJ still without a timetable, it will be Anderson going forward as the starting power forward. 

Keldon Johnson, SF/PF, San Antonio Spurs
Keldon Johnson was the second-to-last selection in the first round in 2019 and was considered a project player for his first few seasons in the NBA. However, he has already shown to be ahead of the curve and is looking like a solid steal of the 2019 NBA Draft. In his second season, Johnson has averaged 14 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. Johnson’s percentages have dramatically dropped compared to his rookie season. Not to mention that they are also considered below average compared to the NBA standards. Nonetheless, Johnson still has plenty of room to improve and may even see more opportunity if the veterans in front of him get traded at the deadline or offseason. 

De’Andre Hunter, SF/PF, Atlanta Hawks
De’Andre Hunter was another player that many were unsure about how long it would take for him to reach his peak despite being the number four overall selection in the 2019 NBA Draft. However, he has shown to be ahead of the curve with a breakout season in 2021. Hunter has averaged 17 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. Hunter’s biggest improvements have been his percentage from the field and free-throw line, both of which have jumped by 10 percent. Hunter did have to undergo knee surgery which has kept him out for the last six weeks. The big test will be if Hunter can keep up the consistent play even after dealing with a major injury. 

Centers

Chris Boucher, PF/C, Toronto Raptors
Chris Boucher has been one of the best fantasy pickups all season. His opportunity became clear after Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka left the team in free agency and no major replacement was brought to the roster. Boucher has done a great job capitalizing on the opportunity and because of that is now in serious contention to win the Most Improved Player of the Year award. This season, Boucher has averaged 13.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game. He has also made incredible improvements on his percentages from the field and beyond the arc. Most notably, his three-point percentage has jumped over 12 percent from last season. Until Masai Ujiri feels he needs a more productive team to help this team win another championship, it’ll be Chris Boucher going forward in the second half of the season. 

Jakob Poeltl, C, San Antonio Spurs 
Since February, Jakob Poeltl has been one of the most underrated centers in the league. LaMarcus Aldridge has been dealing with multiple injuries, so it has been the perfect opportunity for Poeltl to show the improvements he has made and attempt to live up to the expectations he had as a top ten selection back in 2016. Since February, Poeltl has averaged eight points, nine rebounds, and two blocks per game. He also shoots efficient 65 percent from the field in those same games. With Aldridge likely to be traded or released before the deadline, this will be the perfect opportunity for Poeltl to be a consistent and productive center for the Spurs organization.

Eastern Conference Fantasy Notes: Week 14

The NBA is a fast-paced league where trends can switch as quickly as a lightbulb. Keeping up to date with these trends is vital to your success in fantasy basketball. We’ll be looking at the expected top performers, sneaky options, injury updates, rookie trends, individual team schedules, and some other points for the Eastern Conference. The key to winning this week? Look no further than this article. We here at Nerd Fantasy Sports got you covered. Check both our Consistency Rankings and New Age Rankings to get a data-driven take on fantasy basketball!

Sleepers to Wake Up

Donte DiVincenzo, PG/SG, Milwaukee Bucks
Donte DiVincenzo is looked upon as the fifth option starter for the Milwaukee Bucks but still has room to grow since he is only 24 years old. Recently he has been putting together a solid stretch of games that has helped Milwaukee go on a six-game winning streak. In his last five games, DiVincenzo has averaged 13 points, ten rebounds, four assists, and two steals a game. He has struggled with his shooting percentages in those games. He shot 43 percent from the field, 31 percent from three, both below his season averages, and 72 percent from the free-throw line. In his third season, it has looked like DiVincenzo has finally started to bring good production for a Bucks team trying to make another finals run. 

Robert Williams III, PF/C, Boston Celtics
Robert Williams III was mentioned on last week’s waiver wire as a young defensive presence with major upside in an open position for the Boston Celtics. He has now only continued to elevate his game to prove more to the team that he should be the future starting center for the franchise. In his last five games, Williams has averaged 11 points, ten rebounds, and 3.4 blocks per game while shooting 75 percent from the field. Especially for fantasy, these are insane numbers to have. This makes Williams a number one waiver wire and trade deadline target. It will be intriguing if Boston adds another big man at the trade deadline or chose to find their starting center in-house. 

Danilo Gallinari, PF/SF, Atlanta Hawks
After signing a three-year, $61.5 million contract, Danilo Gallinari was expected to bring a ton of veteran experience to a rising and young Hawks roster. With injuries and poor shooting, it has taken Gallinari longer than expected to get into rhythm. However recently, he has finally reached that form and has kept it consistent. In his last five games, Gallinari has averaged 18 points and six rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the field and form beyond the arc. Gallinari will continue to produce in the sixth man role for Atlanta as they have won eight straight and are now thee fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. 

Rookies Doing Work

Detroit Pistons’ Rookies
Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart have been playing great since the All-Star break. And with Killian Hayes expected to come back soon, Detroit will hope to form a successful draft class which is something they haven’t had for years. Bey exploded in his game against the Raptors where he finished with 28 points and 12 rebounds. While Stewart has averaged 10 points, seven rebounds, and a block in his last five games. He’s done this while shooting 60 percent from the field and 66 percent from three on an average of one attempt per game. While not much has gone in the direction for Detroit in the past couple of seasons, it is good to see that Troy Weaver and the new front office are starting to build a new regime. 

Question of the Week

What are your thoughts on the Atlanta Hawks?
Since Lloyd Pierce was fired, Atlanta has been on fire. They’ve been undefeated and achieved key wins over the Lakers, Heat, and Raptors. They have shot up to currently sit at the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. John Collins has been a major benefit from the coaching change. Collins has averaged 18 points, eight rebounds, and 1.8 blocks while shooting 52 percent from the field. ll have been small upticks compared to his averages before this. Danilo Gallinari has also been finally catching some rhythm after a slow start to his first season in Atlanta. I would not be surprised to see the Hawks be buyers at the trade deadline for more veteran depth. This team will also only improve once DeAndre Hunter returns to the court. Atlanta is in a really good spot with most of their team still very young.

Other Notes

Every week I will share an opinion of mine about something going on in the Eastern Conference. This week’s take is:
The Celtics need to move on from their young players. This isn’t much of a hot take as the Celtics have now fallen to below .500 after losing to both the Kings and the Cavaliers. However, it has seemed that year after year they continue to hold onto players like Grant WilliamsRomeo Langford, Carson Edwards, and Aaron Nesmith instead of trading for veteran players who bring playoff experience to a team with young stars. Peyton Pritchard is solid, but if he needs to be involved in a trade to bring more experience, it needs to be done. With Thursday’s trade deadline coming up, the Celtics don’t have a ton of time to get a deal done. It may too late for a late playoff push if they cannot make the proper adjustments.

Fantasy Basketball Waiver Wire: Week 13

The key to winning your fantasy basketball league is not how well you draft, but the players you add off waivers. This is extremely important because securing hidden talent could replace those late-round selections that aren’t having the best season. Here at NFS, we provide the best picks for players you should grab off waivers now before it is too late. As always, both opportunity and performance are taken into consideration for these players, and also all players listed are rostered below 40 percent on ESPN. Learn to think like a NERD! Check out the NBA New Age Rankings for every player’s year to date performance valuation.

Guards

Kevin Porter Jr, SG, Houston Rockets
While Kevin Porter Jr is likely owned by over 40 percent of ESPN leagues already, it would be a crime not to mention the immediate impact he has brought to the Houston Rockets since being called up from their G League team. In the first four games he has played this season, Porter has averaged 18 points, three rebounds, eight assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game. Where he has struggled with his percentages, shooting 42 percent from the field and 20 percent from three. However, there is a lot of positives to take from this. Porter is getting the volume and opportunities he needs to improve. Houston also losing 17 consecutive games will likely lead to more veterans being traded, solidifying Porter’s role for the rest of the season. If Porter is still available in your league, he should be the number one target on the waiver wire. 

Duncan Robinson, SG/SF, Miami Heat
The Miami Heat have entered midseason form, winning five straight, and Duncan Robinson has played a big role in that. After a breakout season last year, Robinson’s numbers have been down. However, he is still playing at a level that has helped this team win five straight. Since the All-Star break, Robinson has averaged 13 points, three rebounds, and 1.5 steals, while shooting 40 percent from three. Robinson’s role is expected to be consistent for the rest of the season, which makes him a solid waiver wire pickup for this week. 

Forwards

Kenyon Martin Jr, SF, Houston Rockets
The son of the former NBA All-Star has finally gotten a crack into the league and has come out strong. Kenyon Martin Jr has benefited from Houston’s losing streak and allowed him to play 30 minutes a game since the break. In those games, he has averaged 14 points, seven rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 1.8 blocks per game. Similar to the situation with Kevin Porter Jr, veterans are likely to be traded because of their historic losing streak. This will very likely give Martin a consistent role for the rest of the season. This makes him a top priority to add from the waiver wire. 

DeAndre Hunter, SF/PF, Atlanta Hawks
De’Andre Hunter was having a breakout season before being forced to undergo knee surgery which forced him to miss six weeks. He is finally expected to return on Thursday. Now while he will likely be on a minute restriction for the first few games, in the long run, he is still a solid pickup on the waiver wire. Before the surgery, Hunter was averaging 17 points, five rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. He also saw a 10 percent jump in his field goal percentage from his rookie year. Hunter will look to return to his earlier season form. 

Aleksej Pokusevski, PF, Oklahoma City Thunder
Many questioned OKC’s selection of Aleksej Pokusevski on draft night instead of many more well-known names. And after spending some time in the G League, he seems to have finally gotten some opportunity in the big leagues. Since the break, Pokusevski has averaged 11 points, eight rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game. He has struggled extremely with his shooting percentages, both under 32 percent. But with him playing around 32 minutes a game, he is still a solid option to look out for on the waiver wire, especially as the season progresses. 

Centers

Robert Williams III, PF/C, Boston Celtics
There has been open competition for the center position in Boston the entire season now, but it has been Robert Williams III who has the productive edge over the past few games. In his last five games, Williams has averaged 11 points, eight rebounds, and 3.4 blocks per game, while shooting an extremely efficient 74 percent from the field. He has also achieved all these averages in only around 20 minutes a game. The minutes are an indication that the starting job is still open. However, as long as Williams keeps up this production, the minutes will likely increase, only giving more opportunities for Williams to improve. 

Dwight Howard, C, Philadelphia 76ers
Joel Embiid went down with a knee injury and is expected to be out for two to three weeks. This makes Dwight Howard the next man up for the 76ers. We’ve already seen Dwight see his production increase since the injury. In his last five games, Howard has averaged 11 points, nine rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game. He is also shot an efficient 61 percent in those same games. Tony Bradley is also expected to get a boost in minutes as well. But since the injury, it has been Dwight Howard having an uptick in production, making him a solid waiver wire pickup. 

Moses Brown, C, Oklahoma City Thunder
Mosses Brown has been the biggest surprise since the post-All-Star break across the entire league. Not only is he getting legitimate minutes, but he is playing at an above-average level as well. Since the break, Brown has been averaging 12 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks a game. He has also been shooting 60 percent in those same games. With Al Horford on the trade block and may even be bought out, Brown is a prospect with high upside on a team with low expectations. These factors make Brown a solid option for the waiver wire for the rest of the season.