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Well, COVID-19 did its best to throw a wrench into our plans of having a season this past week and still, the takes from last weeks column came to fruition. In the buy category, both the Bucks and Clippers enjoyed winning weeks, going a combined 5-2. Meanwhile in sell land, the Pelicans and Wolves continued to struggle going 1-4 together. With last week looking like a success, lets try and keep this going, here’s this weeks buys and sells.
Short Term: Indiana Pacers
Next string of games: at LAC, vs DAL, vs ORL, vs TOR, vs TOR, vs CHA, vs CHA
I love what the Indiana Pacers are doing. Domantas Sabonis looks like a top 20 player in the league, Malcolm Brogdon looks healthy and, the team was able to swing in and snag Caris LeVert in the James Harden trade for Victor Oladipo. Though Oladipo looked better this season, his production wasn’t where it needed to be and you could tell watching the team there was an air of awkwardness after all the trade speculation in the offseason. Sliding LeVert into that Oladipo role should be a seamless transition and continue to help spark one of the quietly best teams in the league. If things weren’t positive enough for new head coach Nate Bjorkgren’s squad, Myles Turner is blocking everything in sight this season and appears poised to make his first appearance on one of the All-Defence teams. Jump on this team now because in a couple weeks or so when everyone finally starts to take them seriously, you won’t be able to get as much value.
Long Term: Dallas Mavericks
For a team that led the NBA in offensive rating last season, sitting in 15th a few weeks into the season isn’t ideal. There’s no doubt Mavs star Luka Doncic came into the season out of shape and it showed in his play. After a slow start that saw him scoring around 24 a game with an abysmal 16 per cent from three in the first five games, Doncic has bounced back in a big way. In the last four he’s averaging a 31 point triple-double, shooting 37 per cent from three. If Doncic returning to MVP level form isn’t enough to sway you, how about the fact the Mavericks currently sit second in defensive rating. Meaning, for a team that was 18th in the category last season, if they can just normalize their offence, the Mavs immediately become one of the best teams in basketball by the numbers. What may help their offence you ask? What about the return of Kristaps Porzingis to the lineup. With Porzingis back healthy to go with a rolling Doncic and somehow defensively sufficient Mavs roster, betting on this team to pile up wins feels like a smart acquisition.
Short Term: Oklahoma City Thunder
Next string of games: vs CHI, vs PHI, at DEN, at LAC, at LAC, at POR, at PHX, vs BKN
The fact the Oklahoma City Thunder are a game under .500 right now is what we would call a statistical anomaly. OKC has the third worst net rating, second worst offence and according to basketball reference has two more wins so far than they’re expected to have based on the numbers. What does this mean? Unlike Bill Parcells may tell you, the Thunder’s record does not in fact say who they are. In actuality this extremely young team that somehow also includes George Hill and Al Horford has gotten lucky. Well, the easiest way to crush luck in the NBA is a long western road trip and you better believe who has one coming up. Yes, your statistical outliers head on the road for games with Denver, the Clippers, Portland and Phoenix, sandwiched between home games against MVP front runner Joel Embiid and the new looked Brooklyn Nets. Call me a cynic but I see in about two weeks the Thunder’s record making a heck of a lot more sense than it does now.
Long Term: Orlando Magic
You’d be hardpressed to find a more snake bitten franchise than Orlando right now. Right at the moment when Jonathan Issac and Markelle Fultz appeared to be turning the corner, injuries had other suggestions. Unfortunately for Magic fans on top of that, much like the Thunder team I just talked about, their net rating would tell you with its 23rd ranking that their 6-5 record isn’t what it appears to be. With Fultz done and Cole Anthony not being ready yet, I struggle to see how this team scores the basketball with any type of efficiency. In my opinion Fultz injury should kick start a rebuild since this team is clearly back to a play-in team without him and they could probably get some useful stuff for Evan Fournier on an expiring contract. With that potential to them selling sooner rather than later, that’s another reason to stay away from this team for a while. They may make the playoffs again as a lowlevel eight seed or something through the playin but much more than that feels pretty unrealistic.