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This Week on Air-Ball:
- THE DENVER NUGGETS ARE IN A DANGEROUS SPOT
- NBA ROOKIE REPORT: QUICKLEY AND MAXEY CONTINUE KENTUCKY TRADITION WHILE WISEMAN FLASHES EXCELLANCE
- THE BROOKLYN NETS BIG THREE DEBUT
- THE NBA SEASON WON’T BE POSTPONED OR CANCELLED
As we roll into week three of this column and week four of this NBA season, it’s abundantly clear COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere anytime soon when it comes to the NBA. With that said, as much as it sucks losing teams like the Wizards and Grizzlies the season goes on and there’s been a ton of great basketball to talk about. In this week’s column we have the MVP front runner and a comeback story none of us saw coming in the buying and in the selling well, the NBA comes at you fast let’s just say that.
Without further adieu, let’s get started:
Short Term: Philadelphia 76ers
Next String of Games: vs BOS, at DET, at DET, vs LAL, at MIN, at IND
Let’s be honest with ourselves, Joel Embiid is having an MVP type season. Why does this matter so much here you ask? With a player like Embiid out to prove all his doubters wrong, this team is virtually guaranteed to rack up wins. Few teams could guard a normal Embiid, let alone the one that has come out this season like he is trying to atone for every criticism he’s ever received. I mean the man is averaging 26 and 11 and anchoring the fourth-best defence in the league. Also of note is the fact this team is only going to get better in the coming weeks as guys like Seth Curry return from COVID-19 protocols. My only real concern is Ben Simmons hasn’t really held up his end of the bargain offensively but with four below-average defences coming up on the schedule in Detroit, Minnesota and Indiana without Myles Turner, I see a good stretch of opportunities for Simmons to find his game. Even if Simmons doesn’t fully regain last season’s form any time soon, the Sixers are a buy just off the strength of Embiid. Seriously, he’s been that good so far.
Long Term: Utah Jazz
What if I told you the best looking western conference contender in the Northwest Division was a team from the mountains, however, it just happens to be the Utah Jazz instead of the Denver Nuggets. The Jazz have a top-eight offence right now to combine with their always good defence under Rudy Gobert which is sixth in the league. The real story of Utah though isn’t Gobert and it isn’t even Donovan Mitchell. Rather, the renaissance of Mike Conley is in full effect right now. Conley is shooting a blistering 43 per cent from deep this season on six attempts and has really stabilized the team’s secondary creation next to Mitchell. Speaking of stabilizing the Jazz, the team brought back Derrick Favors to pair with Jordan Clarkson off the bench to form one of the league’s best reserve groups. Right now, the Jazz are fourth in the league in bench scoring averaging 38.8 points a night. What’s crazy is despite all this positivity and the fact the team has a top-three record in the West, Mitchell has been just okay so far. He’s shooting an uninspiring 42.9 per cent from the floor and if that were to go up, I don’t know how you guard this team. Even if he doesn’t this Jazz team is really good and still pretty undervalued relative to how they’re playing so far this season.
Short Term: Portland Trail Blazers
Next String of Games: vs NYK, vs OKC, at HOU, at CHI
It breaks my heart but you know why they’re here. With all of CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins out indefinitely, I can’t in good faith expect this team to be good. They were already running a short rotation and now without their second and third best player and only plus defender at centre, I don’t know how they make up for those losses. There’s no doubt Nurkic’s foot speed was disappointing so far but let’s be honest, no matter how bad it was, it wasn’t anywhere near Enes Kanter’s. The only saving grace in the Rose City is Damian Lillard remains healthy so at least there’s that. However, for a guy averaging 28 points a game right now, I’m not sure how much more you can ask. The Blazer’s prospects are bleak for at least the next month unless essentially Lillard goes full supernova and then maybe they can be around .500 like last season when they were hit by the injury bug. I fear though that this year is different. They don’t really have a backup guard to speak of, especially since Rodney Hood hasn’t looked like himself off the Achilles. Basically, this team for about four weeks is going to be asking a lot of Harry Giles, Nassir Little and Anfernee Simons and I don’t know about you but I’d rather not have those guys in control of my money.
Long Term: Sacramento Kings
How bad is it in Sacramento right now you ask? Well, in 2018-19, the Cleveland Cavaliers set the record for the worst defensive rating in NBA history with a 117.6. Right now the Kings defensive rating is 121.1, almost four points worse than the record-setting Cavs and 6.5 points worse than anyone else this season. They also have the league-worst net rating at -9.8 which is quite impressive for a team with a top 11 offence. To put it bluntly, this Kings team is really bad right now and it doesn’t appear like it’ll be improving any time soon. In fact, I could argue it’ll get worse. One of the team’s three good players this season, Richaun Holmes, plays a position of need for a bunch of teams in the league and, is on a super cheap expiring contract. I’d be willing to bet money he’s gone before the deadline. Other potential trade chips are Marvin Bagley, Harrison Barnes, Buddy Hield and basically, let’s be honest, everyone that isn’t named De’Aaron Fox or Tyrese Haliburton. I highly doubt if you had money on this team preseason but if you did I’m here to tell you, it’s going to get much worse in 2021 before there’s much hope of anything improving in the California state capital. Hey though, at least Haliburton is really good.