NASCAR takes its talents to South Beach for the Dixie Vodka 400

Start your engines! Photo via: Wiki Commons.

The NASCAR Cup Series continues their tour of the great state of Florida as they head for the high banks of Homestead-Miami Speedway for the Dixie Vodka 400. This track will provide a lot of side-by-side racing as the track's 18-20 degree progressive banking gives plenty of grooves for everyone to go. Expect a lot of drivers to run around the wall all throughout the day to try to find more grip. Sunday has all the makings for a lot of speed and green flag runs as well.

Earlier in the year, Fox released an ad campaign stating that this year could potentially be "the best season ever" and so far it's living up to the billing as we saw the second consecutive first time winner at the Daytona Road Course. In the final two laps, Christopher Bell made the race winning pass on Joey Logano to take the victory. The sophomore driver out of Oklahoma, made the move to JGR last year after driving for Leavine Family Racing. This young driver is a clear force to be reckoned with in the future as he has now teamed up with champion crew-chief Adam Stevens.

With both of those drivers getting their first career win, there is a good chance we see more first time winners this year and one driver who is really impressive so far has been Ryan Preece. Coming into this season, Preece faced a lot of uncertainty considering his team doesn't have a charter for the season. This hasn't stopped the New Englander though as he has rattled off back-to-back top tens. While yes, there was a level of attrition in both races, let it be known that Preece has been really fast in both qualifying for the 500 and the duels. I wouldn't be surprised to see him find victory lane in 2021. He's hungry and running extremely efficient, and this team has been staying out of trouble. I look forward to seeing him continue to improve as I have been a fan of his since his time in the Xfinity Series.

While it has been a rough two weeks for him, another driver to look out for this week is Tyler Reddick. While he has been in a mini-slump, this is a track where Reddick has excelled. Now yes, he has only ran one race here in the Cup Series, but his success goes back to his time in the Xfinity Series as he made a momentous run en route to a championship. Mile and a half tracks have also been a strength for him as he has scored six top tens on these types of tracks. Look for the #8 Cheddar's Camaro to be up front on Sunday.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is Kyle Larson. As everyone knows these past 12 months have not been the best for the California driver. He has faced tons of scrutiny (to his own doing of course) during his suspension and his reinstatement. He has done well though in his time since then though and in my opinion has really worked to rectify his mistakes. With the slate now clean, Larson has been doing a great job on the track. But overall the one thing that has plagued him has been his inability to finish races. Ever since his start, Larson has continued to choke away races week in and week out. We saw it first hand last week when he drove straight into the tires trying to pass Joey Logano. If he had shown a bit more patience, he might have won as he was in the top three at the time. Homestead is easily his best track, if there is any place he can win it's here. He currently has a 96.8 driver rating here and has led 277 laps. If he can keep it together, look for Larson to take the checkered flag and bring the #5 back to victory lane.

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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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