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While we as basketball fans love to determine improvement through an increase in the main statistical categories, the indication it can give can be minimal at times.
Take Kyle O’Quinn for instance: when comparing his stats from this season to last, you’ll notice they’re fairly similar — a slight jump in most areas, but nothing that screams “big improvement.” Despite this, it’s common belief among Magic fans and writers that O’Quinn developed greatly as a player this year.
The increased trust that Magic coach Jacque Vaughn showed in Kyle played a huge part in his development. As the season went on, O’Quinn saw a somewhat steady increase in his minutes — he seized the opportunity, and increased his production significantly with an increased role in the rotation.
The stats — when split into sections of the season — are telling:
Not only did he improve across the board statistically as the season went on, it was clear he was playing with more confidence. He was far less hesitant with the ball, and showed off the fantastic passing skills he possesses, both on outlets and in the half-court, rare for a player of his position.
It also must have been encouraging for Magic brass to see him play comfortably at either frontcourt spot, playing a lot of minutes in a big lineup with himself at the 4 and Nikola Vucevic at the 5, yet also sliding to center himself when need be.
SportVu’s rim protection data backs up the claim that O’Quinn is an excellent defensive player, with him being ranked 13th in the league in field goal percentage allowed at the rim, for guys who contest at least four shots a game.
He’s ranked above Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah (16th) and fairly close to Andrew Bogut (10th), Serge Ibaka (7th), and Taj Gibson (11th), along with various other elite defensive big men. That’s a pretty great sign, and shows his potential to be an elite defensive big for years to come — guys that can protect the rim generally stay in the league for a long time.
Kyle is a fan favorite, too. Working hard to transform himself from a guy who rode the bench his rookie season to a pivotal part of the Magic rotation has not gone unnoticed, and when combined with his excellent defensive awareness and never-ending motor, he’s a fantastic guy to have on the court.
With O’Quinn’s development on both ends of the floor — and his ability to play either big position — it’s looking like the Magic have their frontcourt set for the future, considering himself and Nikola Vucevic have shown they can both see the court at the same time (O’Quinn’s best defensive lineup includes Vucevic, per 82games.com).
With the kind of intensity and energy O’Quinn brings to the team, the minutes increase is likely to be a continuing trend, and the extra experience will only help his confidence even more.
Whatever happens, Kyle O’Quinn will always be the feel-good story that came out of a pretty tough season for the Orlando Magic.