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This Week on Air-Ball:
- WHY BROWN, SEXTON AND VANVLEET SHOULD BE FIRST TIME ALL-STARS
- NBA ROOKIE REPORT: ROOKIE GUARDS BALL, CAMPAZZO AND ANTHONY WORKING TO LEARN THE NBA GAME
- WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE DALLAS MAVERICKS?
- BAM ADEBAYO CONTINUES TO DEFY THE ODDS ON A PATH TO NBA SUPERSTARDOM
Short Term: Toronto Raptors
Next String of Games: at BKN, at ATL, at MEM, at WSH, at BOS, vs MIN
Earlier in the season, the Toronto Raptors couldn’t stop a soul. Quietly though, as chaos has descended around them in the NBA, they’ve risen to ninth in the league in defence. They’ve also managed to get their offence to 14th, a testament to Nick Nurse’s brilliance. Stop me if you’ve heard this before but the Raptor’s best offseason move was the signing of an undrafted free-agent, Yuta Watanabe. Watanabe, Norman Powell, somehow Stanley Johnson and PER god Chris Boucher have cobbled together a workable bench. Meanwhile, Fred VanVleet, the patriarch of the Raptors undrafted free agent family tree is playing like an All-Star and leading a starting group that is also finally coming around. Now I’m not saying this team is going to rise to second in the east like last season but with a workable upcoming schedule and talent as good as VanVleet, Kyle Lowry and Co., this team is at the very least a slightly above .500 playoff team and there’s some money to be made on that right now.
Long Term: Denver Nuggets
Now before Nuggets fans come after me for complimenting them less than 14 days after I wrote about them not being that good, hear me out. The point of that piece wasn’t to say Denver was bad, it was to say they need to understand who they are. So essentially, don’t trade Michael Porter Jr in a win-now move when you aren’t a piece away from a title so it isn’t worth it. What the Nuggets are is a team a tier below the Lakers and Clippers, chilling with the Utah Jazz as a firm top-four team in the west. Guess what, the Nuggets aren’t winning the title this season barring something truly insane happening. What they will do is likely ride the back of Nikola Jokic’s MVP campaign to a top 3-4 seed and make people a ton of money in the process. Jokic is a top-five player in the world right now and it just appears is too good to finish below the top four. So, why not make some money off his greatness while you can because this Nuggets team is about to wrack up some wins. Don’t believe me? Just ask Rudy Gobert and the Jazz how good the Nuggets are.
Short Term: Cleveland Cavaliers
Next String of Games: vs MIL, vs MIL, at PHX, at DEN, at POR, at LAC, at GSW
Listen, I probably like the Cavs more than just about anyone this side of Lake Erie. Collin Sexton was one of my favourite players in the 2018 draft and is playing like an All-Star. Jarrett Allen was a steal in the James Harden trade and Isaac Okoro is one of the dudes I would’ve bet on as like stock from the 2020 draft. That said, their upcoming schedule is miserable and since they’ve traded for Allen their centre rotation is disjointed with Andre Drummond for some reason still on this team. The Cavs have one of the sneakiest futures in the East but I think we may be about a year early on them as a legit playoff team. Maybe they’ll prove me wrong this coming couple of weeks however I have my doubts. My guess is it doesn’t go well for them, they fall to the about 10-12 range they probably should be in and that’s where they end up finishing this season. Then with a year of improvement from Sexton, Okoro, Allen and Garland, next year is the year they take their real step. Young teams usually have their season before they’re actually good mirage and I think that was the Cavs this season.
Long Term: Dallas Mavericks
Before Mavs fans freak out, I’m not saying this isn’t a playoff team. What I’ve seen really locking in on them the last week or so is that’s all they are, a low-level playoff team. They’ll finish in the play-in somewhere because Luka is too good to be worse than the 10 seed. Then, they’ll probably get out of the play-in because Luka will be easily the best player in whatever game they’re playing, advance to the first round and get clapped by either the Lakers or Clippers. Why I’m selling this is because there’s hardly any financial value in this team right now because at the high end they’re a bad playoff team and at the low end they’re just bad. Due to this, I’m guessing a ton of people bought in on them early in the season as like Luka-proxy stock and I’m just saying this isn’t the season where that investment will pay off. Josh Richardson is a disaster, Kristaps Porzinigis looks like a lesser version of himself and Tim Hardaway Jr and Jalen Brunson aren’t good enough to create shots for others often enough for it to matter. They’re a couple of pieces away and that’s super disappointing. However, it’s important to call a spade a spade in situations like this because otherwise, it’s an easy way to lose some money.