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What’s popping on Air-Ball


Chicago Bulls

To be honest, I absolutely loved what the Chicago Bulls did Thursday. Nikola Vucevic hasn’t played with another All-Star since his rookie season with Andre Iguodala. Pairing him as an offensive hub with Zach LaVine who also hasn’t exactly played on stacked teams will be offensively dominant. The type of things available to them with their two-man game thanks to the shooting of each, Vucevic’s passing and LaVine’s explosiveness will be one of the best duos instantly in the East. I think right now with those two and the rest of the supporting cast including now Daniel Theis as well should put them firmly in the playoffs and frankly likely above the play-in game. I know this may sound hyperbolic to some who haven’t watched a ton of either of these guys play this season but trust me, the offensive flexibility they give head coach Billy Donovan will make them quickly a league pass must-watch. 

Denver Nuggets

When the Denver Nuggets made the western conference finals, my friends and I in a group chat talked about how if they made the right moves to surround Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, they would be real title contenders. Of course, they lost Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee and a slight step back seemed for certain in the 2021 playoffs. Well, today Denver took a big swing at trying to get back to the conference finals and I love it. Aaron Gordon is the type of player who was dying to play with someone like Nikola Jokic. The possibilities of him in this offence as a screener for Murray or one of their other guards or in some unique lob actions with Jokic feel endless. Then, defensively he fits the perfect whole this team had. Right now when Jokic blitzes pick and rolls, it leaves them desperate for rim help. JaMychal Green and an old Paul Millsap just haven’t been enough this year and even Grant last year was barely enough. At this point in his career, Gordon is better defensively than all of them. Not only can he help at the rim, but he’s also the big wing/forward defender they desperately needed against the Lakers and frankly Clippers as well. I’m not saying the Nuggets are favourites to come out of the west. But, Gordon and JaVale McGee as well not only fill obvious holes this team had, they in many ways have the chance to improve them on a team that played in the final four just last season. You have to respect a team going all in, especially when their star is playing like the best player in the league. 


Los Angeles Lakers

It’s not a coincidence the Lakers out of nowhere this week became invested in trying to get Kyle Lowry. Dennis Schroder was brought into this team to be a complimentary player to go with other role players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso, Markieff Morris and others. His fit next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis has been awesome. Without them though, that’s not where this franchise wants him to be. That’s why with both their stars out for weeks, it seemed like they came out of nowhere to swing for Lowry. Rob Pelinka knows they are potentially in some short-term peril unless they added some talent. Guess what, outside of maybe Andre Drummond in the buyout market, they haven’t been able to add any. So now they head into potentially what, a month without either LeBron or Davis? There’s no way anyone who follows the purple and gold closely has to feel good about that. Right now they’re only believe it or not four games up on eighth in the conference. The west has been so good this year even a team like the Lakers could get into a tight spot real quick with a tough month. Obviously, if LeBron and Davis are healthy come playoff time this team is right there with anyone if not better. However, the idea of a bad month could cause them to have to play every series on the road and go through like the Clippers then Suns then Jazz or Nuggets has to be far from what they wanted. So no, their championship odds aren’t done. But their GM is worried and swung to improve this week and if he’s worried, I am too. 

Orlando Magic

To be honest with you, I actually like what the Magic did today. I think getting those two picks and Wendell Carter Jr from the Bulls is about as close to a sell high as possible on Vucevic. Similarly, getting something for Evan Fournier, even if it isn’t a ton from Boston was needed. And, let’s be realistic, With Gordon wanting out, moving him this week finally felt like time after years of thinking about it. The reason they’re in the selling section even though I like what they did though is pretty simple, if they’re selling this season themselves then so am I. Orlando effectively put their hands up, admitted this team wasn’t going anywhere of note anytime soon with this core and punted the ball. Sure, as a Magic fan it has to suck that in a rebuild sparked by the Dwight Howard trade you won only two playoff games, not rounds, games. But the thing is, this core of Gordon, Vucevic and Fournier wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon and it’s important they got things for all of them in ending it now. It’s time to suck this year and boy will they if you look at that roster, draft some players who have the potential to be stars and can fit along with your younger core of Markelle Fultz, Jonathan Isaac, Cole Anthony and now Carter and see what happens next. If there was ever a draft to tank for, it’s this one that is loaded with five potential stars. Tanking is never ideal for a fanbase but let’s be honest, is finishing seventh or eighth better? It was time to hit the reset button and I’m proud of them for doing it (just save your money for the time being buying their SimBull!) 


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