Drafting Kentucky freshman Kevin Knox with the No. 9 overall pick in last month’s NBA draft, the New York Knicks are banking on the 6-foot-9 forward to help revive the team and get them back into playoff contention next season.
While he — like Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis — was booed by fans on draft night, he seems to have already impressed at least one NBA executive just days into the Las Vegas Summer League.
Knox dropped 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the Knicks’ 91-89 win over the Atlanta Hawks at the Thomas and Mack Center on Saturday afternoon. His shooting performance wasn’t great by any means — Knox went 8-of-20 from the field and 1-of-7 from behind the arc — but the 18-year-old did throw down a pair of highlight worthy dunks.
Knox averaged 15.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game for Kentucky last season, leading the Wildcats to a 26-11 record and a Sweet 16 appearance.
“He’s very comfortable with himself, very comfortable with his game,” Knicks coach David Fizdale told The Athletic. “He knows his game. He really understands at a young age how to get to spots and find his shot. We put him in a lot of different situations. He’s rolling in pick-and-rolls, he’s handling in pick-and-rolls. So we’re going to mix it up with him and try to utilize his skill set.”
Oklahoma’s 2017-2018 athletic season did not produce as many national championships as they did a year ago, but it did produce championship-level athletes.
For the first time since Texas in 2006, the Sooners will boast top 10 picks in the NFL (Baker Mayfield No. 1), MLB (Kyler Murray No. 9) and NBA (Trae Young No. 5) drafts. According to the Wall-Street Journal, this is the fifth time in the history of the big three drafts (Texas 1982, 2006; Stanford 1992; Auburn 1988) that a team will have an athlete selected in the top 10 in each three sports.
To go along with Oklahoma’s draft Triple Crown, softball pitchers Paige Lowary (No. 1) and Paige Parker (No. 6) were selected in the first round of the National Pro Fastpitch Draft.
Heading into the 2018-2019 athletic season, Oklahoma football’s Rodney Anderson and Bobby Evans have been highlighted as potential first round picks, while no athletes in men’s basketball or baseball have yet.
At this time a year ago, Baker Mayfield, Trae Young and Kyler Murray were not slated to be drafted in the first round, let alone a top-10 pick in their respective drafts.
Maury Brown,National Baseball Writer, BBWAA Member, 20+ Yr Sports Biz Reporter Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
LeBron James helped fuel viewership for the NBA Conference Finals. But how does the NBA compare to the other Big-4 when it comes to Conference Finals? (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Think people are tired of watching LeBron James and the Cavaliers? Think they’re bored of watching Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors?
The NBA Conference Finals that saw the Cavs go up against the Boston Celtics and the Warriors take on the Houston Rockets was the most-watched Conference Finals in six years, drawing an average of 9,015,000 viewers across TNT, ABC, and ESPN. Those numbers were up +40% compared to last year’s Conference Finals that pulled an average of 6,417,000, according to Nielsen.
For the NBA, getting to Game 7s in both the Western and Eastern Conference largely fueled the numbers.
TNT had the second most-viewed NBA game in the history of cable television for the Golden State Warriors’ victory in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. The game which saw the Warriors beat the Rockets 101-92 averaging 14.8 million viewers.
ESPN had its second-largest NBA audience ever for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 87-79 victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, averaging 13.3 million viewers.
But how do the numbers stack up against the other North American Big-4 sports leagues? How does the National Football League, Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League stack up?
The NBA, NHL, and MLB appear united in their approach. But the NFL, as is often the case on many issues, is reacting differently.
The NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL, and NCAA all opposed New Jersey’s case from the beginning (the case was originally called Chris Christie vs. NCAA et al.), not because they opposed legalized sports betting, but because they didn’t want to deal with a messy, state-by-state legal landscape. Too bad: New Jersey won its case, which means that New Jersey and other states can now move to legalize sports betting in their state.
The ruling does not mean that sports betting is now legal at the federal level, which is what the leagues would prefer: a uniform federal framework. The leagues (led by the NBA) are still pushing forward with that separate lobbying effort—but that will likely take years to play out.
The NBA was quick to reiterate its stance in a statement after the May 14 SCOTUS ruling (bolding ours): “Today’s decision by the Supreme Court opens the door for states to pass laws legalizing sports betting. We remain in favor of a federal framework that would provide a uniform approach to sports gambling in states that choose to permit it, but we will remain active in ongoing discussions with state legislatures. Regardless of the particulars of any future sports betting law, the integrity of our game remains our highest priority.”
NBA, MLB want integrity fees
And speaking of integrity, the NBA and MLB have both said they will seek a 1% “integrity fee” on all legal bets placed on their games. The concept (in particular the name choice) has been mocked by some, but others see it as an inevitable step, and a positive one because it means the players get a cut of the betting. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has not specifically voiced support for integrity fees, but did tell CNBC last week that he now believes legal betting will be good for hockey. And on the issue of fees, Bettman is likely to fall in line with whatever NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred do. “The NHL won’t be driving the car,” says Dustin Gouker, managing editor of the website Legal Sports Report. “They’ll sit on the passenger side and generally be amenable to what the others want.”
Rather than demand a direct cut of the betting, the NFL appears to be focusing on getting paid for selling rights to its own data and video footage—intellectual property that legal betting operators will want to pay for in order to help them set lines and prop bets.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed this approach when he broke his silence on the issue this week in a statement: “We have spent considerable time planning for the potential of broadly legalized sports gambling and are prepared to address these changes in a thoughtful and comprehensive way.” He also voiced support for “Congress to enact uniform standards for states that choose to legalize sports betting,” like the other leagues want.
“The NFL is sort of aligned with the NBA and Major League Baseball, in that they think regulation is the best way to go,” says Gouker. “The difference is in how they are going about it. The NFL doesn’t seem to be interested in getting a cut of all wagers like its counterparts are. They may see those ‘integrity fees’ as problematic both legally and from an optics standpoint.”
San Francisco Giants vs. Pittsburgh Pirates Friday, May 11, 2018, 7:05 pm ET
SAN FRANCISCO +126
The Giants are undervalued on the road against Jameson Taillon. Taillon has been sharp, especially at home, but my simulations indicate this game should be closer to a pick ’em. I have the Giants winning 49 percent of simulations behind Andrew Suarez. Take the value road dog at +126.
SportsLine Expert: Mike McClure (9-3 in last 12 NHL picks)
Nick Markakis (Photo Credit: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Atlanta Braves vs. Miami Marlins Friday, May 11, 2018, 7:10 pm ET
The wOBA model likes the value on the Braves despite being road favorites in Miami. Brandon McCarthy will really benefit from the large positive park shift, moving from Atlanta to Miami. The Braves should be -145 to -150 against Dan Straily. Lay it with the road favorite.
SportsLine Expert: Mike McClure (9-3 in last 12 NHL picks)
Washington Nationals vs. Arizona Diamondbacks Friday, May 11, 2018, 9:40 pm ET
My projections see at least nine runs crossing the plate Friday between the Nationals and Diamondbacks, providing a strong position on the Over against a total of 7.5. The Over has hit in five straight starts by Max Scherzer and is 6-0 when he starts Game 2 of a series. The Over also is on a 7-2 run between these clubs in Arizona.
SportsLine Expert: Stephen Oh (18-10 in last 28 MLB picks)
Alex Ovechkin (Photo Credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Friday, May 11, 2018, 8:00 pm ET
TAMPA BAY -1.5
So, here’s the deal. The Lightning have been the dominant Eastern team because they are fast, highly skilled and not shy about playing very physical defense. The addition of Chris Kunitz has been a key factor in bringing Stanley Cub experience to the lineup, and the squad is playing like it means business this season. For all the speculation about Steven Stamkos leaving Tampa before the season started, we now see that he was right in staying. The Lightning have a great shot to bring home hockey’s biggest prize back to Florida. First though are the Capitals, fresh off a landmark win over archrival Pittsburgh. On paper, the Caps appear to be overmatched, but the game isn’t played on paper. Tampa Bay should be able to mix it up and score against a Washington defense that has trouble containing Nikita Kucherov, Stamkos and Alex Killorn. The key to any hope the Capitals may have is to be on the plus side of the special-teams ledger, but Tampa is not a highly penalized team, which can be problematic. The Lightning are good at home, have a vastly superior goaltender, are bigger, more rugged defensemen and more explosive firepower. Give up the 1.5 goals and ride Tampa to a decisive Game 1 conference final victory.
SportsLine Expert: David Kelly (214-142-7 in last 363 NHL picks)
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Boston Celtics Sunday, May 13, 2018, 3:30 pm ET
OVER 203 My data sees at least 215 points hitting the board Sunday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Cavaliers and Celtics, a scoring pace that would crush the Over against this modest NBA total. The Over is on a 16-5 run in Boston home games, while Cleveland is on a 5-1 run to the Over in the postseason.
SportsLine Expert: Stephen Oh (12-8 in last 20 NBA ML picks)
Part of the discussion around daily fantasy sports and the bills to regulate that space has revolved around the professional sports leagues that have ownership interests in DFS companies like DraftKings and FanDuel. Well, that may no longer be the case with MLB and the NBA, which ESPN’s Darren Rovell and David Purdum report are discussing divesting from their respective equity positions in those companies:
Major League Baseball and the NBA are in discussions to divest their financial interests in daily fantasy sports, but plan to remain partners with DraftKings and FanDuel, respectively, league sources told ESPN on Thursday.
Major League Baseball had been an investor in DraftKings since 2013, and in 2015 signed a multi-year sponsorship deal that made DraftKings the “Official Daily Fantasy Game” of MLB. The NBA took an ownership stake in FanDuel in Nov. 2014. The financial details of the deals were not disclosed nor were the exit terms.
“This space is evolving and we saw the need to take a fresh look at the structure of our relationship,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said. “FanDuel has been, and will remain, a great partner. We have simply modified some of the components of our partnership.”
In a statement to ESPN, MLB said, “While we have initiated discussions regarding potential changes to the structure of our relationship, we look forward to continuing our valued partnership with DraftKings. MLB and DraftKings will continue to collaborate on innovative approaches to enhance the fan experience.”
Purdum also tweeted statements from FanDuel and DraftKings:
FanDuel on changing relationship with NBA: “FanDuel and the NBA will remain close commercial partners.”
This might make some sense on a regulatory level and on a perception level. As per LegalSportsReport.com, daily fantasy has been specifically legalized and regulated in many U.S. states, but there are still plenty of states where legislation either has failed or is still pending. And having leagues that are part of these companies’ products with ownership stakes in the company certainly can raise some questions for legislators and others. As that ESPN piece notes, MLB and the NBA have been lobbying in many of the states where daily fantasy has not yet been fully legalized, and questions have been raised about their ownership stakes.
It’s reasonably improbable that MLB or NBA teams or players would purposefully perform below their capabilities simply because the league as a whole has an ownership interest in a daily fantasy company, as there are so many incentives in the other direction, but many have questioned those leagues’ involvement with daily fantasy given their generally harder-line stances on specific gambling wagers. The argument about if daily fantasy is a form of gambling and should be regulated as such is a complicated one that different jurisdictions have considered differently, but some have certainly made that connection, and there are some logical reasons for MLB and the NBA to no longer have ownership stakes in daily fantasy companies.
There hasn’t been any clear proof of actual influence on U.S.-based sporting events from daily fantasy games, but league ownerships imply endorsement on a level beyond advertising partnerships. And it’s notable that we’ve seen some pullback from daily fantasy before, such as Disney deciding not to invest in DraftKings after all in 2015, ESPN’s 2015 move to remove some sponsored content, ESPN’s 2016 termination of their exclusive ad deal with DraftKings, and the 2015-2016 drops in ad spending for FanDuel and DraftKings (96.5 percent and 70.8 percent respectively). ESPN, and their personalities, have done some more recent things with daily fantasy, like the 2017 series of FanDuel social video ads with Adam Schefter, but daily fantasy occupies a much less prominent place in the sports media landscape than it did a few years back. And it appears that leagues are now following suit with that.
This isn’t necessarily much of a concern for anyone if there are buyers willing to pay a decent price for these leagues’ interests. But that’s a key if. While the daily fantasy landscape is clearer now than when these leagues initially invested in terms of regulation, there are also plenty of regulatory hurdles remaining, and there are plenty of people dubious if it will actually ever hit the levels of widespread acceptance many once proclaimed were coming. Now, that won’t necessarily stop MLB or the NBA from divesting, but it might mean they take a bit of a hit in the process. And that’s not a huge deal for leagues of that size with that much revenue, but it is something to consider.
It’s also going to be interesting to see what this means for the daily fantasy companies. If other buyers are found willing to pay a significant price for the leagues’ equity, great. But if not, that might make their valuations seem rather inaccurate. And maybe a lack of league ownership will make regulatory approval easier, but maybe it will lead to less people backing these companies; after all, MLB and the NBA are pretty good people to be in business with, and their exit might be seen as a concerning sign by some. We’ll see how it all plays out, but this is certainly a notable change for the daily fantasy landscape.