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2021 NBA Draft grades: Team-by-team analysis for each draft pick – NBA CA

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The 2021 NBA Draft came and went, and what a hectic night it was.

While the first three picks went as planned, the chaos commenced at pick No. 4, when the Toronto Raptors selected Florida State forward Scottie Barnes over Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs.

From there forward, the draft was full of surprises that worked in favour of some teams more than others.

Here, you can find a team-by-team breakdown of every selection made, with a draft grade and some instant analysis on each pick.

Click your favourite team on the table below to jump straight to there section.

Which NBA team had the most successful NBA Draft night?

Draft Picks: No. 20 – Jalen Johnson, F, Duke; No. 48 – Sharife Cooper, G, Auburn

Grade: B

Analysis: The Hawks selected Johnson with their first-round pick – a scoring forward out of Duke. Johnson is active on the glass and likes to push the ball in transition with plus-ball handling and passing skills as a forward. He’s a threat in pick-and-rolls because of his ability to score for himself or find an open man if the defence collapses – something that should fare well with elite guard Trae Young. But his draft stock was among the most volatile in this class, as he doesn’t pose much threat on the perimeter and he’s an OK defender.

Cooper was a steal at No. 48, giving the Hawks a serviceable backup point guard. He’s one of the best passers in the draft and his feel for the game makes him a great floor general.

Draft Picks: No. 45 – Juhann Begarin, G, Paris Basketball (France)

Grade: C-

Analysis: The Celtics went with a draft-and-stash player in Begarin, an athletic guard with a 7-foot wingspan and knack for putting pressure on the rim a quick first step and great hops.

Draft Picks: No. 27 – Cameron Thomas, G, LSU; No. 29 – Day’Ron Sharpe, C, North Carolina; No. 44 – Kessler Edwards, F, Pepperdine; No. 49 – Marcus Zegarowski, G, Creighton; No. 59 – RaiQuan Gray, F, Florida State

Grade: C-

Analysis: For a team that is looking to contend for championships, it was surprising to see the Nets make five different draft selections. They landed Thomas, who is the second-best pure scorer in this draft class after No. 2 pick Jalen Green, but scoring is far from Brooklyn’s biggest issue. While Thomas gives the Nets’ second unit a shot creator and bucket-getter, it may have been wise to target a versatile defender.

The Nets added some frontcourt depth in Sharpe out of UNC, but he is the definition of an old school big man who clogs the paint and plays with his back to the basket. He’s a great rebounder and shot blocker, but will he fit on a floor alongside any of Brooklyn’s high-octane star trio?

The aforementioned defensive versatility comes in with second-rounders Edwards and Gray, and Zegarowski is a prolific shooter.

Draft Picks: No. 11 – James Bouknight, G, UConn; No. 19 – Kai Jones, C, Texas; No. 37 – JT Thor, F, Auburn; No. 56 – Scottie Lewis, G, Florida

Grade: A+

Analysis: The Hornets had one of the best drafts in the league, with only Golden State challenging that notion. They were the beneficiaries of explosive scoring guard Bouknight sliding out of the top 10 – a player that was anticipated to go just outside of the top five on most final mock drafts. Then, they reportedly traded a future first-round pick to the New York Knicks for the No. 19 pick, in which they landed an athletic and mobile big man in Jones, filling a much-needed void in the middle. Jones to Charlotte was my favourite fit on my mock draft, even if I expected it to come with their first lottery pick.

The idea of LaMelo Ball pushing the pace in transition with Bouknight on the wing and Jones running the lane is scary to think about, adding to weapons like Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, Miles Bridges and PJ Washington.

And before the night even began, they reportedly sent a second-round pick to the Detroit Pistons for veteran center Mason Plumlee and the No. 37 pick. With that selection, they grabbed a lengthy defender in Auburn’s Thor.

It was a productive evening for Charlotte.

Draft Picks: No. 38 – Ayo Dosunmu, G, Illinois

Grade: B

Analysis: I am personally a huge fan of Dosunmu’s. He is a pure winner and a floor general that leads by example. He’s a strong playmaker, embraces contact on drives to the rim and plays tough on-ball defence. He was one of the best guards in college basketball last season and he could give Chicago a steadying and experienced presence in its backcourt.

Draft Picks: No. 3 – Evan Mobley, C, USC

Grade: A

Analysis: The Cavaliers got their guy. Standing pat at pick No. 3, Cleveland adds the best big man in the draft in Mobley. His versatility to be able to play inside or out, and power forward or center, makes the fit work, even if the team elects to match any offers on restricted free agent center Jarrett Allen. Together, Mobley and Allen make one of, if not the , best young frontcourt tandem in the NBA.

A side note: the Cavaliers also reportedly made a pre-draft trade, sending forward Taurean Prince and a 2022 second-round pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves for veteran guard Ricky Rubio. It was a subtle but productive draft night for Cleveland.

Draft Picks: None

Grade: N/A

Analysis: The Mavericks had no picks in this year’s draft.

Draft Picks: No. 26 – Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland, G, VCU

Grade: A-

Analysis: The Nuggets went into the draft with one pick and they needed to use that selection to fill a void in their backcourt. They did exactly that with Hyland, who burst onto the scene following a strong showing at the NBA Combine. He’s a fluid scorer and shot creator who already has step-backs and floaters in his arsenal. He’ll give Denver much-needed guard depth while also providing a necessary scoring punch from the position while Jamal Murray recovers from a torn ACL.

Draft Picks: No. 1 – Cade Cunningham, G, Oklahoma St.; No. 42 – Isaiah Livers, F, Michigan;, No. 52 – Luka Garza, C, Iowa; No. 57 – Balsa Koprivica, C, Florida State

Grade: A

Analysis: As what was expected since the time the Pistons won the Draft Lottery, Cunningham lands in Detroit. The 6-foot-8 jumbo guard has the most polished skill set of any player in this class, ready to make an impact and lead a franchise from Day 1. He can play point guard and initiate offence for budding players like Jerami Grant, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart, or play off the ball alongside last year’s lottery pick, Killian Hayes.

The Pistons also had three second-round picks. Livers is a two-way forward with good size and his defensive presence will be welcomed in Detroit. Garza was the most dominant player in college basketball last season, earning every Player of the Year honour. Well worth a flier, he has a relentless work ethic and has even developed some touch on his 3-point shot, but is limited with his speed and lateral movement. Koprivica adds a 7-footer to the roster.

Draft Picks: No. 7 – Jonathan Kuminga, F, G League Ignite; No. 14 – Moses Moody, G, Arkansas

Grade: A+

Analysis: The Warriors cannot be anything short of ecstatic about how things turned out on draft night. Kuminga was once seen as a lock of a top five pick as a 6-foot-8 forward with an NBA-ready body and true two-way star potential. His draft stock dipped following an up-and-down G League season, but it’s undeniable that Kuminga still has one of the highest ceilings in this draft class and he will surely benefit learning under Golden State’s star trio.

I also originally had Moody pegged to the Warriors at No. 7, adding another knockdown shooter and elite perimeter defender to perfectly complement their current roster. He shockingly fell to them at No. 14, giving Golden State one of the steals of the draft.

The Warriors added two players that brighten their future beyond this title window, but both prospects can contribute certain things to their win-now timeline.

Draft Picks: No. 2 – Jalen Green, G, G League Ignite; No. 16 – Alperen Sengün, C, Besiktas (Turkey); No. 23 – Usman Garuba, F, Real Madrid (Spain); No. 24 – Josh Christopher, G, Arizona State

Grade: B+

Analysis: The Rockets needed a player they can build their offence around following the departure of the elite scoring James Harden last season, and they got that in Green. If the 19-year-old reaches his full potential, I truly believe he could lead the NBA in scoring some day. He’ll immediately become the focal point of Houston’s offence.

The Rockets then reportedly traded two future first-round picks to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the No. 16 pick, selecting Turkish League MVP Sengün to solidify their frontcourt of the future alongside Christian Wood. That’s an expensive price for a No. 16 pick, but I do believe Sengün has a bright future in the NBA and his physicality will complement Wood nicely.

Houston also took the other projected first-round International prospect off the board in Garuba, a high-energy, defensive-minded forward who fits a need on that end of the floor. Selecting at Christopher at No. 24 seemed pre-mature, but he does have combo guard potential.

Draft Picks: No. 13 – Chris Duarte, F, Oregon; No. 22 – Isaiah Jackson, C, Kentucky

Grade: A-

Analysis: The Pacers didn’t have a draft night that will make headlines, but they quietly added two pieces that will perfectly fit their currently constructed roster. Duarte is as NBA-ready as they come in this class as a 3-and-D wing that will knock down shots and defend at a high level right away. With 3-point shooter Doug McDermott set to hit unrestricted free agency, Duarte gives the Pacers a safety blanket in that role.

Jackson is a raw, rim-running, lob-catching center who has the potential to some day be a solid rim protector. Learning under Myles Turner will be great for his player development. I like what Indiana did with these two picks.

Draft Picks: No. 21 – Keon Johnson, G, Tennessee, No. 33 – Jason Preston, G, Ohio, No. 51 – Brandon Boston Jr., G, Kentucky

Grade: B

Analysis: At the reported cost of the No. 25 pick and a future second-round pick, the Clippers moved up four slots in a trade with the Knicks to acquire pick No. 21. After leaping forward, LA selected the most athletic player in this draft class in Johnson, who set an NBA Combine record with a 47-inch vertical. Johnson was once receiving top 10 consideration, but his raw offensive skill set needs a lot of fine tuning. However, he can make an immediate contribution to the Clippers with his defensive prowess and ability to score at the rim as a cutter.

They also reportedly traded a future second-round pick and cash to the Magic to acquire Preston, a 6-foot-4 playmaking guard to add some more backcourt depth. Lastly, they reportedly made a deal with the Pelicans for pick No. 51, where they selected Boston, a scoring guard and former five-star high school prospect who had an up-and-down lone season at Kentucky.

Draft Picks: None

Grade: B+

Analysis: Prior to the start of the draft, the Lakers reportedly traded the No. 22 pick, Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to the Wizards for nine-time All-Star Russell Westbrook and two future second-round picks. Although the Lakers are in desperate need for shooting around LeBron James and Anthony Davis, it’s hard to criticise the addition of a player of Westbrook’s calibre, regardless of how he fits.

Draft Picks: No. 10 – Ziaire Williams, F, Stanford; No. 30 – Santi Aldama, F, Loyola

Grade: C

Analysis: The Grizzlies traded the No. 17 pick and Jonas Valanciunas to the Pelicans for the No. 10 pick, Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe earlier this week. There was a report linking them to Australian guard Giddey, but when he went off the board much earlier than planned at No. 6, it may have shaken up Memphis’ plans.

It took a roll of the dice on Stanford freshman Williams, who was one of my favourite high-risk, high-reward prospects in this class, but No. 10 is early . He was a five-star, top-10 recruit coming out of high school, so the potential is there, but he’s still a raw scorer and needs to bulk up to make an impact defensively.

The Grizzlies also reportedly traded their No. 40 overall pick and two future second-rounds to take Spaniard forward Aldama, who is a long-term project. However, he was First Team All-Patriot League at Loyola last season and won MVP at the U18 2019 FIBA World Cup for Spain.

Draft Picks: None

Grade: N/A

Analysis: The Heat had no picks in this year’s draft.

Draft Picks: No. 54 – Sandro Mamukelashvilli, F, Seton Hall; No. 60 – Georgios Kalaitzakis, F, Panathinaikos (Greece)

Grade: C

Analysis: After reportedly trading pick No. 31 to the Wizards, the Bucks only had two later second-round picks in this draft. The reigning NBA champions didn’t have much to desire on a night like this, but added a pair of forwards in Mamukelashvili and Kalaitzakis.

Mamukelashvili was co-Big East Player of the Year last season, averaging 12 points and six boards per game. Kalaitzakis is a draft-and-stash prospect from Greece, who led the FIBA Europe U20 Championships in scoring in 2019.

Draft Picks: None

Grade: N/A

Analysis: The Timberwolves had no picks in this year’s draft.

Draft Picks: No. 17 – Trey Murphy III, F, Virginia; No. 35 – Herb Jones, F, Alabama

Grade: A

Analysis: The Pelicans did everything they could with the picks they had. Desperately in need of some defenders and some shooting, New Orleans got a bit of both with its two picks. Murphy is one of the top 3-and-D prospects in this class and his draft stock skyrocketted following the NBA Combine. He’s a knockdown shooter, which will space the floor for Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, but he’s also a smart cutter, which bodes well for when the defence focuses too much on those two stars. His long arms, IQ and great anticipation make him a sound defender.

And speaking of defence, Jones brings exactly that to the Pelicans. The 6-foot-8 forward took home SEC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honours last season, giving New Orleans a high-quality defender that can match up against practically any position. His versatility, intensity and effort on that end of the floor will be key for the Pelicans’ biggest weakness.

New Orleans went 2-for-2 here.

Draft Picks: No. 25 – Quentin Grimes, G, Houston; No. 34 – Rokas Jokubaitis, G, FC Barcelona (Spain); No. 36 – Miles McBride, G, West Virginia; No. 58 – Jericho Sims, C, Texas

Grade: B-

Analysis: It wasn’t the most eventful type of busy for the Knicks, but they did make a handful of moves. They reportedly traded their No. 19 pick to the Hornets for a future first-round pick and also reportedly traded their No. 21 pick to the Clippers for pick No. 25 and a future second-rounder. Grimes fits a need for a scoring guard, as the Houston gunner was one of the most prolific 3-point shooters in the country last season.

They also reportedly traded their No. 32 overall pick to the Thunder for picks No. 34 and 36, where New York made two solid selections. Jokubaitis has a ton of potential as a draft-and-stash guard developing overseas for FC Barcelona. McBride has polished playmaking skills and plays hard-nosed defence. I had him as a late first-rounder on my mock draft.

Draft Picks: No. 6 – Josh Giddey, G, Adelaide 36ers (Australia); No. 18 – Tre Mann, G, Florida; No. 32 – Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, F, Villanova; No. 55 – Aaron Wiggins, G, Maryland

Grade: A

Analysis: The Thunder shocked the NBA world when they selected Giddey with the No. 6 pick. The Australian playmaker gives Oklahoma City a lead ball handler that will pair nicely in a big backcourt with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Giddey’s advanced offensive IQ and court vision gives the Thunder a player that can orchastrate the offence, making sure everyone is getting touches. They also selected a fantastic shot creator in Mann, who uses his shiftiness, burst and quick handle to create separation and get to his spots on the floor. His offensive output will help OKC immediately.

In the second round, the Thunder landed a polished and NBA-ready Villanova product in Robinson-Earl, a switchy forward who can defend, knock down shots and makes winning plays. They also got Wiggins, an explosive and athletic wing out of Maryland who aggressively attacks the rim on offence while playing in-your-face on-ball defence on the other end.

The reason Oklahoma City resulted with an A: aside from their selections, they also added two more first-round picks in the reported deal that sent pick No. 16 to the Rockets. This was the first of what will be seven consecutive drafts where the Thunder will have multiple picks in both rounds, tallying 32 picks over a seven-year span.

Draft Picks: No. 5 – Jalen Suggs, G, Gonzaga, No. 8 – Franz Wagner, F, Michigan

Grade: B+

Analysis: The Magic can’t be mad about Suggs falling to them at No. 5, giving the franchise a born winner and leader to build around for the future. Suggs brings a winning culture with him everywhere he goes and a player of that calibre will immediately elevate a locker room, holding the team to a high standard. His fast-paced play should make for a fun offence alongside Cole Anthony, Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac. Add to it that the Magic landed Wagner, a jack-of-all-trades forward with the No. 8 pick and the team has a number of lengthy, switchy, versatile players, adding to a depth chart with RJ Hampton, Chuma Okeke, Wendell Carter Jr. and Mo Bamba.

Orlando has something special brewing for the future.

Draft Picks: No. 28 – Jaden Springer, G, Tennessee; No. 50 – Filip Petrusev, F, Gonzaga; No. 53 – Charles Bassey, C, Western Kentucky

Grade: B+

Analysis: The 76ers needed a guard and a big in this draft and they got both of those things. Springer adds another strong perimeter defender off the bench, making a suffocating tandem between he and Matisse Thybulle. If his offensive game develops, Philly will have itself a sixth man-calibre player in Springer.

Petrusev may end up being a draft-and-stash pick, as the Gonzaga forward is already playing overseas in Serbia. Bassey gives the 76ers some depth behind All-Star center Joel Embiid, and he was once a five-star, top-20 high school recruit. He was a two-time C-USA Defensive Player of the Year at Western Kentucky, while also taking home Player of the Year honours this past season as a double-double machine.

Draft Picks: None

Grade: B+

Analysis: The Suns reportedly traded the No. 29 pick and Jevon Carter to the Nets for Landry Shamet prior to the draft. Adding Shamet gives Phoenix an established role player who can fill a reserve guard role if Cameron Payne leaves in free agency.

Draft Picks: No. 43 – Greg Brown, F, Texas

Grade: B

Analysis: The Trail Blazers reportedly acquired the No. 43 pick from the Pelicans, but it has not been announced what they sent out for it. Regardless, they get a freakishly athletic forward in Brown, who will bring energy, defence and a leaping lob threat to Portland’s depth chart.

Draft Picks: No. 9 – Davion Mitchell, G, Baylor; No. 39 – Neemias Queta, C, Utah State

Grade: C-

Analysis: The grade doesn’t go against Mitchell as a prospect, but against the Kings for neglecting to fill a need with their top 10 pick. With De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton as a clear backcourt of the future, selecting Mitchell seems like a curious choice. He’s a winner, he might be the best on-ball defender in this class and his intensity is contagious – something Sacramento’s culture could certainly use. But it felt like there were forwards or bigs available that would have made more sense.

They did snag a monster center in Queta in the second round, though. Queta is 7-feet tall, 248 pounds with a 7-foot-4 wingspan and averaged 3.3 blocks per game at Utah State last season.

Draft Picks: No. 12 – Joshua Primo, G, Alabama; No. 41 – Joe Wieskamp, F, Iowa

Grade: B-

Analysis: The Spurs went way out of their way to select Canadian 18-year-old Primo, a 6-foot-5 guard with a knockdown perimeter jumper and solid shot creation skills. Primo is the youngest player in this draft class and his high upside has to explain why San Antonio used its lottery pick on him as opposed to trading back. That being said, the Spurs appear to be entering a rebuilding stage and their renowned player development system could be perfect to mould a prospect like Primo and help him reach his full potential.

In the second round, Wieskamp was the perfect selection for the Spurs, adding some much-needed 3-point shooting.

Draft Picks: No. 4 – Scottie Barnes, F, Florida State; No. 46 – Dalano Banton, G, Nebraska; No. 47 – David Johnson, G, Louisville

Grade: B+

Analysis: The Raptors were responsible for the first big shock of the draft, taking Barnes over Suggs with the No. 4 pick. While I personally loved what seemed to be an inevitable match between Suggs and Toronto, I still think Barnes will thrive in the Raptors’ organisation. At 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, Barnes has the body of a forward but plays like a point guard. He is Draymond Green-esque in that sense and he brings the intensity on the defensive end, too. He can be a lead playmaker on offence and head coach Nick Nurse will have a field day with his defensive versatility. Barnes is a vocal leader and his attitude and work ethic makes him a strong culture fit.

With Pascal Siakam set to miss the start of the season following offseason shoulder surgery, Barnes can fill his role seamlessly in the starting lineup from Day 1.

In the second round, the Raptors took a couple development projects in Canadian Dalano Banton (Toronto, ON), an intriguing prospect as a 6-foot-9 playmaking point guard and Johnson, a sharpshooting scoring guard.

Draft Picks: No. 40 – Jared Butler, G, Baylor

Grade: A

Analysis: The Jazz reportedly traded the No. 30 overall pick to the Grizzlies for the No. 40 overall pick and two future second rounders. They landed Butler, who, if not for entering the NBA’s “Fitness-to-Play” panel due to a medical condition prior to the Combine, may have flirted with being a lottery pick. Butler was rewarded as the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament during Baylor’s run to a National Championship last season, playing a lead guard role, initiating offence while still scoring the rock.

The fact that Utah was able to add two future second-round picks while selecting the player they likely would have taken at No. 30 anyway tells you all you need to know about their draft grade.

Draft Picks: No. 15 – Corey Kispert, F, Gonzaga; No. 31 – Isaiah Todd, F, G League Ignite

Grade: B+

Analysis: The Wizards traded Russell Westbrook to the Lakers for Kuzma, Harrell and Caldwell-Pope to kick off draft night, likely altering their draft plans in the process. But shooting should have been at the top of Washington’s priority list regardless of the Westbrook trade, and they added the best marksmen in this class in Kispert. The Gonzaga senior will be ready to come in and knock down shots right away, spacing the floor for Bradley Beal to operate.

I also like the flier they took on Ignite forward Todd, who flashed some raw offensive skills in his one G League season while continuing to show the impact he can make on the glass and defensively.

The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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LeBrun: What's at stake for the Maple Leafs this season? 'I don’t think we can hide from it' – The Athletic

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TORONTO — To be blunt, the Toronto Maple Leafs could go 82-0 this season, rewrite the regular-season record book and there would be large segments of their fan base and people around the hockey world who would say: Yeah, but …

That “but” hangs over this season like a massive anvil.

This is my 27th year covering the NHL, all of them based here in Toronto, and I would argue this franchise has never in that time frame felt this kind of pressure to deliver.

Doug Gilmour’s overachieving Leafs teams were too beloved by the fan base to be second-guessed. Wendel Clark is still a Leafs God for a reason. He left it all on the ice.

Mats Sundin’s Leafs teams a decade later didn’t deliver the ultimate prize but the faith of the fan base didn’t waver too much through some decent playoff runs.

This current team has done nothing come playoff time.

Nothing yet, anyway.

Which is why despite always being a team that garners plenty of leaguewide attention, sometimes for no real reason, the Leafs are genuinely one of the most compelling stories this season in the NHL, win or lose.

Up 3-1 on their rival Montreal Canadiens in May, the Leafs crumbled in a seven-game series loss that won’t soon be forgotten.

And yet the painful lessons from yet another first-round exit had to be addressed before the Leafs could turn the page.

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In final clash before potential playoff duel, Rays torment Blue Jays once more – Sportsnet.ca

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – No team torments the Toronto Blue Jays quite like the Tampa Bay Rays, and adding insult to injury in their final regular season meeting was getting a beatdown from their archnemesis and then watching them clinch a playoff berth.

The finale of a three-game set at Tropicana Field lacked the typical drama most of Wednesday afternoon after Ross Stripling got lit up for five runs in a six-run third that effectively decided a 7-1 Rays win. But theatre arrived in the eighth when Ryan Borucki hit Kevin Kiermaier, who triggered ill will Monday by grabbing a data card dislodged from Alejandro Kirk’s wristband during a play at the plate, prompting words to be exchanged and the dugouts to empty.

Relative calm prevailed as Rays manager Kevin Cash ranted to the umpiring crew, which then gathered by the mound after and ejected Borucki. That prompted pitching coach Pete Walker and manager Charlie Montoyo to argue, and Walker was restrained before he was ejected, too.

David Robertson closed things out in an incident-free ninth inning and the Rays poured out on the field afterwards for business-as-usual handshakes.

As usual, the Rays got the better of season series with 11 wins, and at 94-59, now have a magic number of four to clinch the American League East in back-to-back seasons. Of their 19 clashes this season, it was only the sixth time the game was decided by four runs or more, in contrast to the 10 contests settled by two or less.

The Rays winning the East is an inevitably at this point and should the Blue Jays successfully clinch a wild-card berth and then win that game to reach the division series, the Rays are likely to be waiting for them there.

There are steps to be taken for them to get there, but the math remains fairly favourable for the Blue Jays (85-67), who fell even with the New York Yankees (85-67) for the second wild card and dropped two games back of the Boston Red Sox (87-65) for the first, pending Wednesday night’s action. The Yankees were scheduled to host Texas, the Red Sox home to the Mets.

With 10 games left, beginning with a four-game set at the Minnesota Twins opening Thursday, a 6-4 run would push them to 91 wins, a total likely enough to get them into the playoffs. After the Twins, the Blue Jays have three-game series at home versus the Yankees and Baltimore Orioles, so the opportunity for 7-3 or even better is certainly there.

A big weekend versus the Twins while the Red Sox and Yankees play three in New York this weekend is a pivotal chance to gain ground before Boston closes out against Baltimore and Washington. The Yankees finish against the Rays after playing Boston and Toronto.

Nothing should be taken for granted, but the Blue Jays are set up fairly well, even after their bullpen game Wednesday went terribly awry.

Stripling, entering behind opener Julian Merryweather as the bulk pitcher, got through his first inning unscathed but didn’t survive the next, going single, double, walk, sacrifice fly, three-run homer by Austin Meadows and single before Montoyo came with the hook.

Taylor Walls added a two-run single in the frame before it was over and, with the Rays’ bullpen game going much more to plan, this was a hole the Blue Jays offence couldn’t dig out of.

Surviving as best as possible for Thursday became the priority at that point, and essential on that front was the 2.1 shutout innings delivered by Anthony Castro. That allowed the Blue Jays to both get Jordan Romano and Trevor Richards needed rest and keep Adam Cimber and Tim Mayza available for the Twins opener.

Pearson was pressed into duty after Borucki’s ejection.

Castro’s work may very well get him optioned, as Thomas Hatch, at one point a candidate to be activated from the taxi squad for Wednesday, is likely to join the bullpen Thursday.

Another reinforcement could be Santiago Espinal, whose return from a rehab assignment at triple-A Buffalo is suddenly more urgent with Breyvic Valera on the COVID-19 IL for coming into close contact with a family member.

Valera is fully vaccinated and produced a negative test, but when he’s eligible to return will be dependent on returning more negative tests and getting sign-offs from both MLB and the union. Kevin Smith was recalled from the Bisons to cover for the time being.

Cavan Biggio is a possibility to join the club next week, although the Blue Jays are hoping he can establish some rhythm at the plate before he’s returned from his rehab assignment.

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2020 Ryder Cup: The significance of the numbers on Team Europe's Ryder Cup golf bags – Golf Channel

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Analytics have become an increasingly important part of the entire Ryder Cup process, but European captain Padraig Harrington is taking his numbers game to a new level – literally.

Stitched on the golf bags of all 12 of Harrington’s players this week at Whistling Straits is a number. The digits are unique to each player and signify where they fit on Team Europe’s historical timeline, which has featured 164 players, from the first eight Brits in 1927 to Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger, who was the last rookie selected for this year’s squad.

“Mine is the smallest number, obviously: 118,” said Lee Westwood, who is competing in his 11th Ryder Cup this week.

The 48-year-old Westwood, who has played in 44 career cup matches, just three shy of Phil Mickelson’s record. His first match came back in 1997 at Valderrama, where the Europeans, captained by the late Seve Ballesteros, edged the Americans by a point.

It was a solid debut for Westwood, who went 2-3 and teamed with Nick Faldo for all four team sessions, but the Englishman doesn’t remember the birdies and bogeys from that week as much as the passion that exuded from the European team.

“I knew from day one, really, [how important the Ryder Cup was],” Westwood said. “Listen, that week the captain was Seve Ballesteros. There may have been one or two people over many generations as passionate as Seve about the game of golf, but I doubt there’s been many as passionate about the Ryder Cup as Seve was. … You just fed off him, really. With Nick Faldo as my partner, Seve and Nick both held the Ryder Cup in high regard, and just being around them, you could see how much it meant to them.

“Passion for the Ryder Cup was never something that I had to learn or gain. Pretty much like European team spirit is not something we have to work on; it’s just there.”

Sergio Garcia can attest. The Spaniard, whose 25 ½ career points earned is a Ryder Cup record, has played in nine of these matches. His debut came in 1999, and he teamed with Jesper Pernevik to go 3-0-1 in team play, though the Euros lost by one at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.

But when it came to his number, Garcia had no clue until Monday night when Harrington played a short, inspirational video before presenting each player his number and bag.

“I’ve always known that being a part of the Ryder Cup team is very difficult, but I didn’t know that only that little amount of players have made it,” said Garcia, who is No. 120. “So, that showed you how difficult it really is. That’s why every time I’m a part of a team or the rest of our teammates, that’s why we give it the respect that it deserves, because it’s so difficult to be a part of it.

“It’s an honor, and we treat it like that.”


Harrington using numbers to inspire Team Europe


McIlroy, No. 144 (behind just Westwood, Garcia, No. 130 Paul Casey and No. 134 Ian Poulter), described some of the video presentation, which featured the theme, “Make it count.”

“To put it into context: 570 people have been into space. I think over 5,000 people have climbed [Mount] Everest. 225 have won a men’s major. When you sort of break it down like that it’s a pretty small group and it’s pretty cool,” McIlroy said.

“It’s a small collection of people that have played for Europe in the Ryder Cup,” McIlroy added. “I think that’s what brings us very close together, and that’s been one of our sort of big focus points this week is just being here is very special and being part of a European team. Very few people can call themselves a European Ryder Cup player.”

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