NASCAR heads to Hotlanta for the QuikTrip 500

Start your engines! Photo via: Wiki Commons.

The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Hotlanta this week for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. This track has been a staple among the NASCAR Cup Series since it was built back in 1960. This track provides a lot of spacious green flag runs, so we could see a lot of strategy this week as it is one of the more tame races on the schedule.

This season has been unpredictable to say the least. There have been five races and five different winners as the streak continued last week with Martin Truex Jr. winning at Phoenix. The race was fairly mild in spite of the race's twenty-two lead changes. There was a lot of speed early on from the Penske Fords as both Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney won stages one and two, but they were both no match for Truex as he made the race winning pass with twenty-four laps to go. This is a statement win for the 2017 champion as he looks to establish himself as the championship favorite.

While Truex and his #19 team were celebrating, his teammate Kyle Busch has been experiencing the exact opposite as his struggles continue. Two weeks ago at Las Vegas, Kyle made an awesome comeback after struggling for most of the day to finish third. Last week was a much different story. The two-time champion struggled mightily as he was outside the top twenty for most of the day. To add insult to injury, he was involved in an incident with Ross Chastain. This has easily been the most frustrating period of his career as he nearly went winless all of 2020 until winning at Texas in the fall. During this slump, there have been many who questioned why he was struggling so bad. One of the biggest reasons could be NASCAR's omission of practice and qualifying as he was never really able to adjust to that. Another could be he still isn't used to working with his new crew-chief, Ben Beshore. Whatever the reason, rowdy and his team still have plenty of time to turn things around.

The favorite to win this week has to be last week's winner, Martin Truex Jr. Over the last four races here, Truex has been one of the three best drivers by far. He currently holds an impressive 3.33 average finish here since 2017. Plus, he has a lot of good momentum going into this race considering his win last week. I look for him to lead a lot of laps this week considering he will be on the front row. He will be hard to beat come Sunday. Look for the #19 Toyota Camry to be a true contender this week.

The driver that I have winning this week is Brad Keselowski. Over the last two weeks, Brad has been on quite a roll with back-to-back top fives including a second place finish last week. Even though his season started off kind of rocky, Brad has been one of the best drivers out there. He is due for a win, and he's coming to a track where he has been great. He has won here twice in the last four years. Look for him to go to victory lane and become the sixth different winner in 2021.

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The Rockets selected Jalen Green with the No. 2 pick. Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images.

The city of Houston can finally rejoice as Jalen Green was selected as the number two pick by the Rockets at the 2021 NBA Draft. It was already suspected that the Rockets would draft Green from past reports. Shams Charania of The Athletic already reported that the Rockets narrowed their decision down to Green.

Green is an explosive shooting guard that can get in-and-out amongst the perimeter and paint. With the G-League Ignite, he averaged 17.9 points, 2.8 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. He is an excellent free throw shooter at 82.9 percent. Like James Harden, he is incredibly good at getting to the free throw line. Green has a good trigger from three by shooting 36.5 percent on 5.7 attempts a game. His mature status since high school has prepared him for the NBA.

"His down-hill playmaking is really hard to guard", as Joey Fucca, his ex-coach told TDS. "If he says he's going to get to the rim, good luck. He is very good at getting to the free throw line, he is also very explosive to finish above the rim. When his three ball is on, you're just going to have a long night. I wouldn't be excited to guard him."

Green has blistering speed with outstanding handles to blow by his defenders and score. Spectators have compared Green to a younger Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Bradley Beal, and Zach Lavine, which are superstar players. He is a particularly good midrange shooter underneath the perimeter, as he shot 35 percent on a small quantity of attempts in a shorter season.

"Jalen is a uniquely blessed guy. He's a transcendent athlete," as Rockets GM Rafael Stone said. "He can handle the ball, and he can shoot. Normally, people that athletic aren't as skilled. We think that combination of tools makes him an extraordinarily exciting prospect."

During his press conference on Thursday night, Green emphasized the achievements he wants to accomplish with the Rockets. Green even discussed his desire of being a better defender, as he wants to continue to get better. He has a great wingspan and lateral movement to stay with opposing players on defense and be disruptive in the passing lanes.

"They're going to say it's a great choice," Green said. "Rookie of the Year, All-Star, All-Defense, max contract. We're doing it big."

"Yeah, I think I can be that piece. I think I'm going to bring that dominant mentality, that defensive mindset…They already got a lot of star players"

As the draft continued, the Rockets sent future draft picks from the Wizards to land the 16th pick in the draft, which was 6'10 Alperen Sengun from Turkey. The 16th pick did belong to the Oklahoma City Thunder until Rafael Stone executed an interesting deal with Sam Presti.

"We did not think he would fall to us at 23, so we were really aggressive to try and move up all throughout the first round to acquire him," as Stone said.

Sengun's abilities on the court revolve around his post ups and skillful passing. He even maintains good feet along the baseline. In his press conference, he mentioned his passing skills can become better. There are clips of him looking impressive on shovel passes, passing the ball behind his back, and finding the cutting man towards the basket. Sengun looked good in double teams by showing he can still find the open man with his back turned.

While playing in the Turkish Super League, Sengun was an MVP at 18-years-old, averaged 19.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.5 assist, 1.7 blocks, and 1.3 steals per game. He could be another huge figure next to Christian Wood on the court, and a safety blanket for the Rockets if they cannot bring back Kelly Olynyk.

Usman Garbua is similar to former Rocket Luc Mbah a Moute. He is 6'8 with a tremendous wingspan at 7'3 and can guard anyone on the court, which is 1-5. Garbua was seen guarding Kevin Durant in the Team USA vs. Spain matchup and had interesting battles. The Rockets will get a ton of energy out of the 19-year-old player. He knows how to run the floor in transition, so he can finish around the rim. As I see it, he could be on a defensive first team in the future as he matures more. Garbua will become a defensive nightmare against opposing players.

"I think he's the best defender in the world outside of the NBA, and he's just 19 years old," Stone said. "I think he potentially could be really, really impactful on that side of the ball."

As the Rockets made their last selection, they selected Green's AAU buddy, Josh Christopher from Arizona State. He impressed a ton of scouts during his draft workouts and scrimmage against other prospects. Christopher had a double-double during his third scrimmage, which was 16 points and 10 rebounds. He is a very shifty guard with a ferocious step back.

While playing with the Sun Devils, he averaged 14.3 points per game and shot 49 percent from the field. Just like Green, he loved the midrange opportunities, as he shot 49.6 percent underneath the perimeter. He is another shifty big body the Rockets will have in their back court at 6'5. Christopher is very good at rebounding and playing defense. Stone loves watching him in defensive one-on-one situations. Christopher has Sixth Man of the Year written all over him because of his stocky body type and upside.

Hopefully, the Rockets have an exciting summer league and training camp along with their season.

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