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What’s popping on Air-Ball


Short Term: Milwaukee Bucks

Next string of games: vs NYK, at WSH, at WSH, at PHI, vs SAS, vs IND, vs BOS 

It’s hard to quantify the importance of Jrue Holiday to this Bucks team. Not only was he playing at a borderline All-Star level when he went out with COVID-19 but also, due to the amount the Bucks gave up for him, their depth is nowhere near what it was the last two seasons. So, with Holiday back and now a unique break in the season to work back his cardio after missing so much time, that fills a major void in this Bucks team. Furthermore, Giannis Antetokounmpo is quietly back to MVP form after a weird start to the year and evidenced by that Clippers game on Sunday is a man on a mission. A couple of weeks ago Milwaukee got humiliated on their home court by the Raptors. Khris Middleton looked awful, Giannis was lost, Mike Budenholzer’s firing was inevitable, it was bad. Since then though they’re 6-1, have three double digit wins and are back to the regular season juggernaut we know and love. Now I don’t know what they’ll do in the playoffs but I’d be hard-pressed to not believe this Bucks team isn’t ready to launch on a second half run that leaves them at or near the top of the East heading into the post season. 

Long Term: Miami Heat

The first half of this NBA season was not kind to the darlings of the NBA bubble. Ravaged by COVID-19, injuries and flat out bad luck, it feels like a minor miracle they’re .500 at the break. Here’s the thing though, in a conference that failed to separate when Miami was down, now that they’re back up, look out. The Heat are 11-4 in games Jimmy Butler plays and much like with the Bucks and Holiday getting much needed rest, so will Butler, Goran Dragic and the rest of the veteran crew that’s been banged up so far this season. Toss in a spiteful Bam Adebayo who wasn’t even selected as an All-Star replacement and look out. Oh and if you need anymore convincing, Miami has the fourth easiest schedule remaining. Look for Erik Spoelstra’s crew to go on the second half run he’s become known for in his coaching career. I know at some point you looked at the standings and started writing their obituary. Well, the All-Star break is here and although they were mostly dead for a lot of the first half, they remained slightly alive and are ready to pounce in the second half. 


Short Term: New Orleans Pelicans

Next string of games: vs MIN, vs CLE, vs LAC, at POR, at POR, at DEN, vs LAL, vs DEN 

I understand watching Zion Williamson has been exciting this year. Heck, I can’t believe how much he’s improved in just the first half of the season. He looks better and better with every game and boy is it tantalizing. Here’s my advice to you though. Avoid your urges and save your money on NOLA for now. Stan Van Gundy still has yet to figure out this hodgepodge of a roster and as a result, I don’t see them winning enough games in the second half to be a worth while buy. They have a brutally hard schedule, ninth toughest in basketball, and with so many questions surrounding the futures of Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, JJ Redick, Eric Bledsoe and more, I just don’t see how this team goes on a run in the second half. But, what I do see is them popping next season. So, hold off and don’t buy them now, let that stock drop because of their struggles this season until where you think it’s the lowest it’ll get and strike because trust me, Zion and Brandon Ingram are going to figure it out real quick. I think we’re a year early on them being good so capitalize on this and save your money until the time is right. 

Long Term: Atlanta Hawks 

Much like New Orleans, my problem with the Hawks starts with how much uncertainty there is in this organization. With Lloyd Pierce gone I’m not sure Nate McMillan is the answer at coach and frankly neither are they since he’s only the interim. Then there’s the what to do with John Collins question and I get a dark feeling they’re going to move him at the deadline for 80 cents on the dollar. This organization feels too hell bent on winning this year when it’s just not going well and when that is the case two things usually happen. Firstly, the general manager who can feel his job security lessening gets desperate and makes a win now move. Second, that move is a complete wildcard and rarely pans out. Even if I was able to look past all of that turmoil, I’m not in love with Trae Young right now. His effort this season has been inconsistent at best and frankly, he’s taken a step back as a player. He feels far too reliant on the ball being in his hands as the off ball dream has yet to come to fruition. This team has talent and yet their star feels distant from them, I can’t say I blame Collins for going at him in a meeting. There’s far too much dismay and disorganization in Atlanta for me to ever put my money near it. If I was you I’d advise the same until they show some signs of competence again. 


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